Fuelling the West Country Gritters
Enterprise Mouchel provides frontline road maintenance services to the Highways Agency. Operations cover the maintenance of road surface, crash barriers, the verges, gritting, lighting and traffic management facilities Business in this sector is usually secured by tendering for five-year term Managing Agent Contracts for regional sections of the national highways network.
In the south west area, Enterprise Mouchel is responsible for the Area 1 network, which includes the A30 and the A38, the main trunk roads for Devon and Cornwall. Depot facilities are co-located with Highways Agency at the Devon County Council’s Sowton depot, near Exeter.
“The contract includes day-to-day network management, investment planning and budgeting, programming and the provision of strategic advice to the Highways Agency,” explains Clive Stears, Area Operations Manager.
“Apart from proactive measures our role is to deal with emergency reaction. With some 24 vehicles, the core fleet comprises the gritter trucks for winter maintenance duties. We also deploy traffic management equipment in order to implement lane closures etc with the ubiquitous cones. Other specialist vehicles include a truck with Hiab crane for the repair of crash barriers and we also operate a Mobile Elevated Work Platform.[quote]We drew up a requirement for an ‘all singing and dancing system’. This was put out tender and the final selection was an integrated tank filling station supplied by MIS Fuel Monitoring. Basically it ticked all the boxes[/quote]
On taking over at this contract, we inherited an ageing fuelling point based on underground tanks and a couple of Merridale pumps. Fuelling information was recorded by hand and transferred to an Excel spreadsheet.
Whilst this was never intended to be particularly accurate, we are now more focussed as attitudes have changed markedly with the increasing costs of fuel. Today we have strict rules about accountability and that requires more accurate measurement.
Clive Stears continues: “ Initially we intended to upgrade the original installation simply by adding a monitoring system. But this then led to a discussion about state of the underground tanks. These had been in place for over 30 years and were not compliant with current specifications.
It soon became clear that we needed to start again. This gave us the opportunity to rethink the fuelling point and invest in an installation that would meet our foreseeable operational requirements. The specification was drawn up in conjunction with Devon County Council with the view to sharing the facility for fueling the winter maintenance fleet.
MIS Fuel Monitoring (Merridale) were consulted because they were already an approved supplier for the depot. The operational requirement was developed in conjunction the Highways Agency. A representative from the supplier was then invited to a question and answer session.
“We drew up a requirement for an ‘all singing and dancing system’. This was put out tender and the final selection was an integrated tank filling station supplied by MIS Fuel Monitoring. Basically it ticked all the boxes,” says Clive Stears.
At the time of writing this report the installation had been in service for less than twelve months. This initial period has allowed the fleet drivers to familiarise themselves with the procedure for drawing fuel, using a smart key to turn on the pump and the vehicle mileage reading entered onto the keyboard to authorise the transaction.
Clive Stears continues: “Our fuel supplies are secure and we are capturing data so in that respect, we have already benefitted by taking out the manual effort. The next step will be to engage the commercial team who will be using the reports for target costing jobs and doing their profit & loss analysis,”
“Since I am at the operational end of things, my main concern is availability of fuel to ensure that we can fulfil our work programme commitments sufficiently. At the end of the day I have got a job to do and that is to deliver road maintenance services.
“When it comes to renewing our service contract – the commercial team will require good information and fuel costs are a major factor. Indeed if fuel prices continue to escalate we shall require sound data to underwrite any future negotiations.”
The fuelling point at Sowton is based on a dual compartment tank with 20K litres capacity for gas oil and 15K litres for white road diesel. Since gritters are dedicated to winter maintenance, they are excluded from duty and allowed to run on standard (red) gas oil. Other more general purpose, road going vehicles, such as the elevated platforms etc have to use white diesel.
Fuel is dispensed by a Merridale twin pump dispenser with integral monitoring, enabling all transactions to be recorded automatically for the production of fuel usage reports.