SunFun leads the way with first Merridale vLink into service for a UK coach and bus operator
As business confidence returns to the coach travel industry, many operators are taking the opportunity to update their depot facilities. For SunFun Luxury Travel of Earith, Cambridgeshire, this involved the installation of a larger diesel storage tank. The new tank has been fitted out with an integrated Merridale pump with electronic monitoring for vehicle dispensing, security and stock management.
The company also chose to use the Merridale vLink data transfer cable, making SunFun the first coach and bus operator to adopt this configuration. Based on proven ‘proximity tag’ technology, it uses a simple ‘snap on and quick release’ communications cable. On connection this enables the fuelling control software to recognise the vLink ID plate attached to an authorised vehicle.
A memory device within the plate is updated on completion of the transaction.[quote]All depot fuelling transactions are now recorded automatically. We know which vehicle was fuelled, the time, the amount drawn and by whom. The Merridale FuelWorks software is very user friendly and we were quickly up and running following the set up briefing.[/quote]
The cable works in the same way as the Merridale proximity data tags. These are also used by SunFun for authenticating hire vehicles and company cars not fitted with the vLink plates.
As well as pioneering the Merridale vLink system, the new SunFun fuelling point is of further significance because it marks the company’s transition from manual records to electronic monitoring.
“Fleet consumption from the depot tank averages around 20K litres a month. This amounts to around ￡240,000 a year at current prices, so clearly we needed to find a better way of managing this important resource” explains SunFun facilities manager, Steve Fields.
“The Merridale software provides all the functionality we need to monitor our usage and track the mpg economy performance of the SunFun fleet. In this respect we have made a big step forward from meter readings and manual records. We are saving time and clerical effort sorting out queries. Merridale provides better quality information, as and whenever it is required.
“All depot fuelling transactions are now recorded automatically. We know which vehicle was fuelled, the time, the amount drawn and by whom. The Merridale FuelWorks software is very user friendly and we were quickly up and running following the set up briefing.
“We chose the Merridale dispensing equipment because it is very robust and has an excellent reputation for reliability. After six months we have only had one service issue when the third-party GPRS network link went down. But this was dealt with very quickly. Merridale support includes a telephone help desk should we have any questions.
SunFun operates a fleet of 44 vehicles covering three main market sectors from long distance touring to daily school runs.
Accurate records are important to the school buses as these are fuelled frequently, according to daily work schedules. The touring coaches are more often away from base and will draw fuel on the road. The Merridale system allows SunFun to import details of these ‘external’’ transactions onto the master database to provide a complete record for every vehicle.”
Sun Fun International is a family owned firm set up 26 years ago to provide day trips and holiday excursions for the communities of expatriates who were living on the US bases around Cambridgeshire.
As the business developed, the company has built up a fleet of executive touring coaches, fully equipped for long distance travel. This work is complemented by executive coach hire, serving corporate customers, schools and colleges in the region. SunFun has also developed a specialist niche with the provision of night-liner coaches for pop groups. These vehicles are often on the road for periods of up to three months touring concert venues throughout Europe.