Driving environmental efficiency the Farrall’s way.

Phill Brooks, General Manager of Farrall’s Transport, explains how the company has taken significant steps to minimise its carbon footprint – actions that have also had a positive impact on the bottom line and growth.

The national HGV fleet travels some 16 billion miles in a year in the UK, consuming over 2 billion gallons of diesel and racking up a national fuel bill of nearly £11 billion. A ten per cent reduction would save the UK logistics sector over a billion pounds. Moreover, the transport sector is responsible for approximately a fifth of UK domestic greenhouse gas emissions and freight transport accounts for around a third of these. This places a particular onus on logistics operators to do everything they can to expand business in an environmentally conscious way.

Far from being a constraint, at Farrall’s Transport we have found that the significant measures that we have taken to minimise our environmental footprint have positively contributed to our bottom line and encouraged our growth.

We have invested significantly over the last year to reduce our carbon usage and environmental impact by using the latest technology and training available. Take, for example, the £1.5 million expansion of our transport fleet. Investing in the latest fuel-efficient and environmentally compliant trucks under-scores our commitment to customer service, sustainability and business growth. Since March 2013, we have taken delivery of 13 new Volvo trucks and 10 new trailers complete with tail-lifts, boosting the company’s delivery power to 40 vehicles and 60 trailers.

In the logistics sector, having an efficient fleet that is low-maintenance and low fuel consumption, is now vital to winning new business in an ever more carbon-conscious commercial environment. This investment makes a significant contribution to our competitive edge. All of the 13 new vehicles comply with the latest environmental and emissions standards, meeting Euro 5 regulations, giving an estimated 16-18% fuel saving. Being Euro 5 compliant is critical for consignments destined for London – we wanted to ensure we had the fleet to support and expand our distribution capacity to the capital.

In addition to the brawn of our fleet, we have also invested in intelligence by means of Dynafleet, Volvo Trucks’ online Transport Information System. This results in the most efficient service for customers, a reduced environmental footprint as well as a major benefit to the bottom line.

Any fuel efficiencies that a transport fleet operator can make will be magnified due to the massive cost of fuel – it requires only a 1 mpg improvement on a vehicle, which will generally achieve about 8 mpg, to produce a 10 per cent saving on the fuel bill.

This is exactly what Farrall’s has achieved since using Dynafleet. It has helped the company step up from a fleet average of 8.6 to 9.6 mpg, which adds up to a very satisfying £100,000 a year saving on fuel.

Given that our bottom line fuel bill amounts to over £1 million a year – our biggest bill after wages – this represents a substantial saving. This means that Dynafleet not only pays for itself but it also helps to fund other key investments in our business, such as IT systems, and helps perpetuate improved efficiency through a driver performance bonus scheme.

Dynafleet gives the operational team a real-time view of fuel consumption, service intervals and driver times as well as current locations of the vehicles in the fleet. This means the transport manager has the clear and accurate information needed to make the right decisions.

Much of the data derives from the drivers’ driving style. The system’s rich functionality includes metrics on activities that can put pressure on the engine – such as the amount of time the vehicle is: left ticking over (idling time); being driven in the ‘green band’ on the revs; coasting on the automatic gear box; using cruise control; or is in top gear.

A report based on these metrics, gives the individual driver either a green (meaning good) or a brown (could do better) mark for each metric, and prescribes an ‘overall percentage score’. Every Monday the results are processed and used to compose a league table on how the drivers are performing.

Our highly experienced Transport Manager will give feedback using the table, which will also be used to base decisions on whether drivers may require further training. Drivers at the top of the league table are also called in to review their figures and the telematics are used for quarterly reviews for all drivers.

Our drivers have access to the Dynafleet App to see their real-time performance against the set criteria. They can also access their own trends. Meanwhile, our management team gains an overview of the fleet through this app – via real-time league tables by driver and vehicle. This enables proactive feedback and coaching from our Transport Manager and Driver Trainer.
Overall, Dynafleet provides our company with an essential monitoring tool to measure our drivers’ performance and to ensure they are driving as efficiently and safely as possible.

However, getting quality data from the system is one thing; reacting to it is another. To get drivers to deliver fuel savings, you have to understand the person and how to get the best out of them. Companies can often fail to realise the HR issues.

The way drivers drive their vehicles makes a great deal of difference to fuel bills and, of course the environment. As we have seen from the figures, any incremental gains that can be achieved across an entire fleet of vehicles over the course of a year will add up to significant overall savings and environmental benefits.

Bottom line mpg figures will fluctuate due to variances between vehicles – newer models will better the mpg of 10 year-old units. The load being hauled and the weather conditions are variables that cannot be controlled, but driver style – the biggest factor in fuel efficiency – certainly can. So it is vital to encourage the driver to drive the vehicle correctly.

The case for fuel-efficient driving is compelling. Few aspects of our trade can create tangible, bottom line effects as rapidly as a well-trained driver. Lowering fuel consumption lowers cost and lowers emissions. A focus on driving practices has indirect benefits, less vehicle damage, less injury and lower insurance premiums. The investment is modest and can be part of the mandatory Driver Certificate of Professional Competency (DCPC), a cost that has to be borne; combining the two makes a great deal of sense. Drivers yet to complete their mandatory 35 hours of periodic training needed for their DCPC would be well minded to take a fuel efficiency oriented module.

A further step to make a significant difference to fuel bills is kitting-out the fleet with appropriate energy saving devices. Innovative measures include fitting Spraydown mud flaps, fitting lift axles on trailers to reduce rolling resistance and using aerodynamic aids such as diffusers on the front and back of trailers. Wind deflectors that diffuse the drag down the side of the trailer can also produce results.

The rewards of all of these measures are considerable, both in terms of the financial savings to the company and the improvement in environmental performance of our business, and we believe that achieving this aim puts us ahead of the curve for medium sized logistics companies.

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