As with all emergency services, it is essential that front line personnel are focussed on maintaining operational readiness and availability. For Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service, this means providing centralised administration for key services, such as its network of diesel fuelling facilities.

Fuel management is based on Merridale FuelFX software, supplied by MIS Fuel Monitoring of Wolverhampton. This provides security, stock control and allows allocation of fuel against specific vehicles and user accounts. Under a recent upgrade, the functionality of the system has been enhanced further by the installation of electronic tank content gauging units.

Fully integrated with the Merridale FuelFX, the gauges provide a continuous read-out of current stock status. Fuel usage is fully reconciled with deliveries and headquarters staff can check the stock level before re-ordering.

“Merridale software was installed during the late Nineties as the basis for holding bunkered diesel supplies,” explains Derbyshire’s transport manager, John Millett, adding, “whilst the Merridale software gave us effective control of fuel usage, we still had to rely on station personnel for checking the tank and keeping a record of deliveries, to update the system database.”

“Even with the best intentions, this update might be delayed or even overlooked in the event of a call-out. The introduction of automatic tank gauging has eliminated this risk by updating automatically, whenever a delivery is made.”

[quote]Vehicles are allocated keys, wherever practical, enabling them to access fuel 24 hours a day, from any of the county’s ten fuelling points. To authorise the transaction, the driver must enter the vehicle fleet number and mileage. Details of the fuel drawn are recorded for subsequent downloading to the central management system.[/quote]

Merridale fuel management systems are in service with a number of emergency services, including the police, ambulance and the national blood service. Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service was one of the first to implement Merridale as its core IT solution for managing bunkered stocks.

Derbyshire covers a wide area, both rural and urban with three major towns, Buxton, Chesterfield and Long Eaton as well as the city of Derby. These are served by nine whole-time, fire stations, three others day staffed and 19 are manned by retained part time personnel. Bunkered fuel is held at ten locations. The other stations use fuel cards enabling personnel to draw fuel from garage forecourts.

Currently the service operates 44 fire appliances across the county, along with 13 other special appliances, aerial ladder platforms, emergency tenders and a special environmental unit. The total fleet of 140 vehicles also includes vans and specialist 4×4 vehicles.

John Millett continues: “Vehicles are allocated keys, wherever practical, enabling them to access fuel 24 hours a day, from any of the county’s ten fuelling points. To authorise the transaction, the driver must enter the vehicle fleet number and mileage. Details of the fuel drawn are recorded for subsequent downloading to the central management system.”

Each station has a master key to allow fuel to be drawn on account for external organisations. Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service work with a number of partnership organisations, such as maintenance support and fire prevention specialists. By capturing details of these transactions, the headquarters staff are able to keep track of the costs associated with these third party arrangements.

As an alternative to bunker facilities, fuel cards are used in the more remote stations which have access to local garage facilities. In these cases the priority is on availability of the appliances and crew on watch. Fuel cards are also required to purchase canned-stock of petrol which is required for running auxiliary equipment onboard the appliances.”

“If necessary the cards also provide a back-up solution for obtaining additional diesel supplies while deployed at a major incident,” says John Millett. Details from all these external transactions are imported onto the central Merridale database, enabling us to keep track of all fuel costs. Future plans include the integration of this information into the higher level fleet management system.”

Summarising the benefits, John Millett concludes: “The Merridale fuel management software gives us the visibility and flexibility we need to allocate fuel to different users and manage stocks centrally. We can look at the tanks and order fuel accordingly. This has proved to be a real asset during fuel crisis situations. If there is any possibility of a shortage we can ensure that we keep our tanks topped-up, which is important to an emergency service.”