Torfaen Council has upgraded its depot fuelling point to meet trading standards.

Over the last decade many local authorities have introduced private partnership initiatives for various services, such as social housing and waste management. Whilst this is an important development in terms of achieving value for money, there are implications for centralised facilities such as the depot fuelling.

Thanks to current fuel management software, these resources are now being strictly audited so that councils can make individual department managers more accountable for their consumption. Clearly this is essential for services which have been out-sourced to private suppliers. If they continue to draw fuel at the depot, then effectively they have become customers and should be invoiced accordingly.

This raises the question as to whether or not the fuelling point is approved for resale.

[quote]This enables us to provide the department managers an ‘electronic’ report to back up their monthly statement. Before we had to print out the reports but now they can be exported directly from the Merridale system as Excel files which they can use in their own Fleet Management software[/quote]

Having taken the decision to upgrade its fuelling point to meet trading standards, Torfaen County Borough Council has achieved a number of operational benefits.  Most significant is the fact that council’s own Trading Standards department also uses the fuelling point for its own vehicles.

“This underscores Torfaen’s commitment for enforcement without fear or favour,” explains depot manager, Rico Cottrell.

The fuelling point is located in the council’s main depot in Pontypool. It comprises three underground tanks one for gas oil for lawn mowers, tractors and gritting vehicles and two for the storage of standard diesel for the road going vehicles.

The pump dispensers and fuel management software were supplied by MIS Fuel Monitoring of Wolverhampton. The main twin Merridale pump incorporates the point’s self-service control unit. Smart keys are used to identify the vehicle and turn on the pump. To obtain fuel, the driver must then authenticate the transaction by inserting a PIN number and the vehicle mileage which is then checked against the system data base.

Approximately 350 keys or ‘Users’ are currently registered. The largest group is the local housing association which has 150 vehicles. This was formerly a council department but is now a privately run entity working in partnership with the council. Fuel is also provided to the contractor providing refuse collection services and for minibuses operated by local schools.

Council departments with fuel accounts include the Street Care and Cleaning, Grounds, Waste and Recycling.

“They are all treated as customers and we supply a complete breakdown of fuelling transactions, by vehicle, driver amount drawn and dates together with the respective mpg performance figures,” says Rico Cottrell.

“Apart from not wanting to compromise the council’s standing, we wanted to assure our users that the pumps are certified for resale and the volumes are correct. The Merridale software creates a detailed report which avoids any waste of time sorting out queries from our user departments.”

“Another important aspect is the need for absolute reconciliation of the fuel stock so that any potential loss will be detected immediately. The recent upgrade included the installation of electronic contents gauges and set point alarms.  Since we are recording usage, we also aware of the stock level required for replenishment without any risk of overfilling.”

Stock management and reports are handled by depot administrator, Jill Francis, who has worked with the Merridale system since she joined the department five years ago. Jill describes the Merridale system as reliable and easy to use. The main benefit of the recent upgrade from her point of view was the improved communications link within the Council’s IT network.

“This enables us to provide the department managers an ‘electronic’ report to back up their monthly statement. Before we had to print out the reports but now they can be exported directly from the Merridale system as Excel files which they can use in their own Fleet Management software,” explains Jill.