For those of us who did paper rounds as teenagers, the daily distribution service provided by Smiths News from its depot in Langley, Berkshire, represents the other end of the spectrum. This is 24 x 7 days a week operation, supplying daily newspapers and magazines to the retail outlets and departure lounges of all four of London airports, as well as the city’s network of railway stations.

Part of  Connect Group, Smiths News has a network of 39 distribution centres across the country. Whilst in most regions transport is via Delivery Service Partners, the particular requirements of the services provided in London and the home counties has necessitated the operation of a fleet of delivery lorries based in Langley.

Merridale - Airports news distribution fleetThe fleet comprises 23 vehicles and as a FORS registered operator Smiths News is fully committed to best practice for safety efficiency, and environmental protection.

“This means that we have to show that we have procedures in place to measure and actively control fuel usage, which is in effect our carbon footprint,” explains operations manager, Eugene Howson.

“The process starts at the depot fuelling point. This has now been upgraded to implement more effective monitoring of vehicle refuelling. The previous system had become so unreliable that we were forced to introduce a manual log to ensure that we had an accurate record of fuel usage,” he said.

This situation has now been resolved by implementing the Merridale FuelWorks, fuel management service. This is a state of the art, web-based application, using GPRS communications to provide online fuel usage reports.

“After switching over to the Merridale service, the difference was overnight” says Eugene Howson. “Queries are dealt with immediately and the after-sales telephone support has been great. We are confident that we now have a robust system for measuring our fuel usage.

“An important benefit is that if any problems with fuelling should occur, they will be picked up immediately. Since drivers’ ID are also recorded, they are more aware of the need for accuracy and will tell us straight away if they had miss-keyed their transaction. Previously  there was lots of administration time being wasted at a later date, as we tried to reconcile fuel usage against purchases.”

For transport supervisor Charlotte Willis the new system has made it easier to produce fuel usage reports. “We can run off reports more or less on demand, weekly and monthly. And we can export these into different formats, such as Excel for spreadsheets. Smiths News also collaborates with other group partners and the Merridale reports enables us to allocate the cost of fuel against specific accounts and profit centres.” 

The new system has been in operation for nearly a year. Hardware components include electronic stock contents monitoring for the storage tank. This provides an online status report and e-mail alert as stock reaches the re-order level.

Fuel is dispensed from a Merridale Auditor GS ATEX certified diesel pump, which incorporates an integral fuel management control panel.  Authorised fleet vehicles are each allocated a proximity datatag which the driver uses to turn on the pump. The system automatically recognises the vehicle being fuelled from the datatag. On starting a new transaction, the driver is asked to choose either the fuel pump or the Adblue dispenser.

To authorise the transaction, the driver enters his or her personal ID number and the mileage (odometer) reading. Details for each transaction (date time and amount drawn) are stored by the pump control automatically. The information is then uploaded daily by Merridale via the GPRS communications. Having secured the data, it is then used to generate a series of custom reports such as fleet usage and vehicle mpg efficiency analysis.

From the mpg reports managers should be able to see any anomalies, if for example any vehicle should show a deterioration in mpg performance, which may possibly point to a service issue. This can be followed up immediately for appropriate action.