Viridor puts fleets first

Viridor recently received an award for its vehicle maintenance. Paul Riley looks at how the company is driving up standards across its servicing regime

Viridor Waste Management operates a commercial fleet of more than 800 vehicles and trailers nationally. It is increasingly focused on its recycling-led activities, which means the provision of materials separation services and onward sale of the recyclable element of both municipal and trade wastes. Nonetheless, waste management is unavoidably hard on vehicles. And, given the importance of compliance, it insists on a high quality of fleet management.

So we were delighted to receive a Roadworthiness Award and certificate for our work in the South-east from the Freight Transport Association (FTA) in June this year. We were told at the time that the FTA had been impressed by the speed and effectiveness with which we improved our servicing regime. The FTA is the leading voice in freight transport in the UK, and it honours those members using its vehicle inspection service which have achieved the greatest improvement in terms of vehicle maintenance and subsequent roadworthiness standards.

Viridor's fleet in the South-east comprises 356 vehicles and trailers serving both dry waste and liquid waste markets. Many of these are required to work off road, delivering wastes to the tipping face on landfills, as well as on the region's public highways. Compaction and one-trip vehicles are manoeuvred into and out of restricted loading areas all day, with frequent stopping and starting as they service customers in the public and private sectors. As a result drivelines, brakes and tyres are severely tested.

As a company, Viridor makes a big selling point of the reliability and quality of its service. It is therefore imperative that we are at least as good as our word, and that means having reliable and well maintained vehicles. Equally, we recognise that quality monitoring is vital to ensure the running of a safe, legal and compliant fleet. As a company, we hold ISO 9001 accreditation within our overall business management system.

Regional representation
The way we approach the quality and continuous improvement of our vehicle fleet is to operate a transport working group, where the four regions - the South-east, South-west, North of England, and Scotland - are represented. The transport working group's primary function is to share best practice with the objective of satisfying statutory compliance requirements and delivering efficiency savings through improved maintenance and vehicle management.

New initiatives are often tested within one of the regions and then rolled out nationally so that everyone benefits. In this spirit, we have introduced new systems and processes to improve fleet management in the South-east in the past year. This phase of improvement started with the formation of a dedicated fleet department within the region. The South-east fleet department has been based on a proven model introduced by Gordon Kellaway, fleet manager for the South-west region.

The regions in the South-east and South-west have up to three full-time staff to oversee the entire operation and ensure all vehicles and plant meet compliance guidelines in terms of operators licence undertakings, and health and safety requirements. In the northern and Scottish regions, an experienced senior transport manager takes the lead in the respective region's compliance management and monitoring.

Electronic solution optimises usage
A new web-based, electronic fleet management system, TAPS, has been introduced which allows the South-east fleet team to access vehicle records, wherever they may be in the region. This helps Viridor to optimise vehicle usage and performance. The fleet team also works with the FTA to standardise and monitor vehicle maintenance.

In the South-east, for example, Viridor outsources 98% of all maintenance work. It uses the FTA to audit the work carried out by the dealer networks, especially with regards to compliance and safety. Knowing that our vehicles have been well maintained gives our drivers added confidence in their vehicles, which contributes to the overall quality of the services we provide.

The FTA has also helped Viridor with one-to-one driver training to ensure that our drivers' daily checks on their vehicles before leaving the depot are thorough and satisfy the company nil-defects reporting procedure. The check list includes wheel security - an important point given that wheels are removed far more frequently than in other transport sectors because of the high incidence of tyre damage in some of the normal working environments.

Of course, this level of attention to detail should be common practice for all fleet operators. Viridor knows that it enables its drivers to deal with VOSA roadside encounters with equanimity and confidence, which is good for them, the company and its customers. In just 12 months, Viridor has raised its MOT first-time pass rate from 80% to 90% in the South-east. This region also achieved a virtually 100% clean bill of health in VOSA routine depot maintenance assessment checks across the region.

Paul Riley is south-east regional fleet and plant engineer at Viridor

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