Introducing telematics to England’s largest water service has brought fuel savings of $860,000 and a $13,000 monthly tyre saving. 

Ask Stewart Lightbody, head of fleet services at Anglian Water, about his first day at the company and he’ll recall, with a smile, how two challenges immediately came his way.

“My boss gave me my induction and then said ‘oh, by the way, I’ve made you framework manager for telematics and driver licence checking, which are two things we have tried in the past but never landed’.”

So, no pressure then.

That was in January 2014. Just two and a half years after Anglian Water began fitting Ctrack telematics to its vans, it can boast fuel savings of £650,000 (approximately $860 000), an annual insurance premium saving of £60,000 (approximately $790 000) and a £10,000 (approximately $13 000) a month tyre saving.

Initially, Lightbody carried out a year-long trial with 500 vans, before rolling it out to the remaining 1,100. The results of the trial made him realise the way the fleet was managed needed to change.

He restructured the plant and transport department and rebranded it fleet services to turn it into “a service orientated business”. In the process, Lightbody’s job title changed from strategy and compliance manager to head of fleet services.

“It was a new title, a new way of working and a new identity for my team,” he says.

The central team of five (down from 10, excluding Lightbody), plus the 22 technicians (Anglian Water has seven workshops) are now encouraged to view drivers as “customers”.

Anglian Water takes an in-house approach to fleet management. All vehicles (bar a small number of perk cars) are outright purchased and maintained at the workshops (the fleet is predominantly Vauxhall and the workshops can carry out warranty work) before being disposed of via traditional and online auctions.

“Our basic principle is ‘if we can, we will’,” Lightbody says.

The key to making telematics work has been collaboration, both with the van drivers and with the unions. “I’m not mandating anything; I would rather work in conjunction with people,” says Lightbody.

“If we come out and say ‘we want to track you to know what you’re doing and where you are’ it’s not going to happen, but we did it for the right reasons.

“We want to make sure our drivers are driving safely, within the realms of the law, but also when something goes wrong we know where they are and we can go and help them. Lone working for us is a big issue.”

As telematics was being rolled out, Anglian Water communicated regularly with the unions about what the telematics data was showing and reassured them that they were “not going to sack people for speeding” and that drivers would be offered coaching.

Anglian Water has created a driver performance scorecard that each driver is e-mailed on a Monday morning to let them, and their manager, manage their performance.

“We’ve been working with the drivers and showing them their performance and going ‘you tell me whether that’s acceptable or not’,” Lightbody says. “It’s better than me going. ‘stop speeding’, because they can see it and they can actually track their own improvement.”

Anglian Water has taken a zero approach to speeding because “speeding is speeding” in Lightbody’s view, but the data is categorised into three groups: up to 10%, 10-25% and more than 25% above the speed limit.

Initially, Anglian Water was seeing a speeding event every 25 miles. Within six months that had improved to every 50 miles.

Lightbody has also changed his approach from focusing on the worst offenders to looking at drivers in the top two categories who might be speeding in low speed areas such as a 20mph zone near a school.

Some drivers have embraced telematics. One contacted Lightbody to say his wife and two children had noticed a change in his driving.

“What he has learned in his van he now uses every day in his private car,” Lightbody says. “That, for me, is a really strong message.”

The next step is introducing telematics to Anglian Water’s 625 company cars.

While the number of speeding convictions on the van fleet is rapidly reducing, the car fleet is seeing an increase.

“From a risk perspective and a corporate social responsibility perspective, how can I not [introduce it to the car fleet]?” Lightbody asks.

“Because at some point, somewhere one of our car drivers could have a serious accident.”

Car drivers have bought into the idea of telematics, as it will reduce the administrative burden of mileage claims.

“People are very anti-telematics until you can sell it as something positive and then actually most arguments go away,” Lightbody says.

To lead by example, he and five directors have telematics in their cars. “I’m never going to ask anyone to do anything I wouldn’t be prepared to do myself,” he says.

Telematics is already installed in the company’s pool car fleet for Lightbody to assess utilisation and mileage. He believes there is potential to replace some diesel pool vehicles with pure electric for trips between Anglian Water’s offices in Huntingdon, Lincoln and Peterborough.

He is currently trialling a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV at Grafham Water (one of Anglian Water’s reservoirs) in place of a diesel L200, as it typically travels 11 miles around the reservoir at slow speed. This means the diesel particulate filter can get blocked.

The downside of the PHEV is that it doesn’t have the towing capacity of the L200 needed to pull boats out of the reservoir at night. This is now being done using a tractor.

“It’s getting people to think differently about what they do and make sure we get the best asset and the best use out of that asset,” Lightbody says.

There are further utilisation gains from the van fleet. Lightbody has identified that nearly 100 vans do fewer than 100 miles a month. Some of those could be replaced with an electric golf buggy.

To improve the efficiency of the fleet, he is looking to integrate telematics with a new scheduling system.

Also on the agenda is a move from using spreadsheets to a fleet management system which will hold data from telematics, licence checks, accidents and fuel cards, and will enable driver risk profiles to be created and, ultimately, a permit to drive to be introduced.

Anglian Water does driver training through Balfour Beatty, but Lightbody admits that there has been “no cohesive strategy” to manage risk.

“That’s where the permit to drive comes in,” he says. “We’ll risk assess you today and then we’ll monitor you going forward. The permit to drive becomes that commodity that can be withdrawn, based on what we know.

“I’ve always struggled in the past, because the telematics data was the missing bit of the jigsaw.”

Licence checking – the other challenge Lightbody was handed on his first day – is currently handled by DriverCheck.

Lightbody has introduced a three-year mandate, with checks carried out quarterly.

“We’ve got a few people who still refuse to sign the mandate, so we’re handing those over to our human resources colleagues to handle,” he says.

He would like to move to ‘live’ checks, so the company is immediately alerted if a driver gets points or is disqualified, rather than finding out at the quarterly check.

“I know the industry can now do it, so we want to be involved,” he says.

He is also introducing rear parking sensors to eliminate drivers reversing into fixed objects at Anglian Water sites. Furthermore, he intends to appoint an accident management company to reduce the administration burden for his team.

“Though we’ve already covered a lot, we’ve only scratched the surface,” Lightbody says.

‘I’ve got boats and tractors’: Life at the largest water service in England

Working for Anglian Water means Stewart Lightbody faces a number of constraints which he didn’t have during his time in the private sector, working for franchised dealers, and running the Kier and Siemens’s fleets.

“Working for a water company in a regulated industry, we are funded by our customers, literally, so I can’t do what I want to do because we can’t always afford it,” he says. “I’m used to being able to be flexible and agile. Now I can’t change things as quickly as I’d like to. If I spend a certain amount of money, I’ve got to go out to official tender. The whole process tends to take forever.”

Anglian Water had to go to tender last year, as its agreement with Vauxhall had reached its maximum duration.

Vauxhall re-won the tender “for all the right reasons”, according to Lightbody.

Working for Anglian Water, the largest water and wastewater service in England and Wales by geographic area, also means Lightbody has a diverse fleet.

“We don’t just do water, we do water recycling as well, which is a posh word for sewage.

“We also have water parks, we have nature reserves, we have reservoirs, we own Grafham Water (reservoir), we own Rutland Water (reservoir),” Lightbody says.

“I’ve got boats, I’ve got tractors, I’ve got mowers, I’ve got more bits of kit than I ever imagined possible, but that’s part of the attraction.”

He spent a large part of his first year at Anglian Water understanding how the water industry works and talking to drivers out in the field, learning about their job.

“We’ve got sludge technicians, CHP engineers, it’s a whole new world – new roles and responsibilities that I’d never encountered before,” he says.

“I love working for Anglian Water. I’ve never worked at a business that quite gets you on the inside so quickly.”

Written by Sarah Tooze.

This article originally appeared in FleetNews.