Leaders in sustainability

Published:  07 February, 2019

The Royal Borough of Greenwich won Most Sustainable Fleet Management Department at the Future Fleet Awards 2018 for its combination of initiatives to transform the environmental performance of its fleet and its participation in the Smart Cities network. Lotte Debell reports.

Air quality is high on the political agenda in the Royal Borough of Greenwich in southeast London. The busy South Circular road cuts through the borough and pollution is a major concern for residents and the council, which has responded by embarking on an ambitious overhaul of its fleet to improve its sustainability and make the borough a centre for the testing and adoption of the latest technologies for the fleets of the future.

The transition to a greener fleet began in 2014 and is still a work in progress. It started with the creation of a corporate fleet client team to enable a more strategic approach across the council, and one of the first things that team did was to develop consistent processes and procedures for fleet management. ‘We looked at what we wanted our fleet to be in the future from an environmental and safety standpoint,’ explains Olivier Tang, head of fleet and waste strategy at the royal borough. ‘In 2015 we undertook to gain FORS Bronze accreditation and this led to a review of our processes against industry best practice.’

Part of this meant looking at the fleet itself. Greenwich currently operates 463 vehicles, 59 of which are O Licence vehicles. The council is the process of replacing and upgrading vehicles to ensure that its fleet complies with its environmental and safety standards, including fitting safety systems to the whole of its HGV fleet to meet the requirements of FORS Silver accreditation – one of the next steps on the agenda. ‘Between 2016 and 2022 we estimate that it will cost around £19.8m to replace the fleet, and we are about a quarter of the way through the process,’ says Olivier.

Greenwich has set certain mandatory requirements for new vehicles – HGVs, for example, must have a camera system, left-hand turn, and close proximity sensors – and the fleet management team, also meets with different managers to find out what they need from their vehicles. There are also sustainability requirements. All new car-derived vans must be electric unless there is a specific requirement for diesel. ‘For instance, we have one exception where the vehicle is on a constant call-out, but there have been very few exemptions.’

Electric is not the only solution that Greenwich is pursuing for its fleet, however. ‘We are looking at a mix of options as the depot can only accommodate so much additional charging at the moment. As air quality is one of the key concerns in the borough there is real drive politically to make the fleet cleaner and lead by example. All our vehicles are replaced on a seven-year cycle so we can keep up to date with the latest technologies. We already use 5% biodiesel in all our diesel vehicles and we are considering using more, but we need to take into consideration what impact a higher percentage might have, for example on vehicle warranties. We are following what other councils are doing in this area closely.’

Smart Cities

The council set up its Smart Cities arm, Digital Greenwich, to be a leader in this emerging field. It is owned by the council but operates independently, and the council is involved as a partner in certain projects. It has tapped into the global Smart Cities network and collaborated with a variety of industry partners on projects around air quality and autonomous vehicles. ‘We want the borough to become an autonomous vehicle test bed,’ explains Olivier.

One project is Move UK. This is a three-year study by a consortium of partners, led by Bosch, that includes Greenwich, TRL, Jaguar Land Rover, the Floow, and Direct Line Group testing vehicles fitted with Advanced Driving Systems in real-world conditions on the roads in Greenwich. The project is designed to address barriers to ADS and develop data-based methods of validating ADS as well as industry-wide standards for recording data, including data for insurance claims involving autonomous vehicles. It also aims to provide an evidence base for future legal frameworks for autonomous vehicle operation in the UK. 

‘There will be a period when autonomous and driven vehicles will be on the road together, and we need to know how people will behave around driverless vehicles,’ explains Olivier. ‘For example, will they drive with less care because they expect the driverless car to react to avert an incident? The Move UK project has fitted autonomous vehicles with a variety of cameras and sensors that record real-world driving data and that data is used to test algorithms to see how driving models work with autonomous vehicles.’

As a partner in the project, Greenwich is responsible for managing the test vehicles as well as providing the drivers and the real-world driving environment – the roads in the borough. The aim is to use the Big Data produced by the study to better understand the impact of autonomous vehicles on the built environment.

Electric RCV

It was the Smart Cities arm that was instrumental in instigating another project for Greenwich when it introduced the fleet management department to a company called Magtec, which was looking to test its electric vehicle conversion technology with a municipal partner. And Greenwich had just the vehicle, a 2009 RCV that was being considered for disposal.

Work on the project started two years ago, funded by Innovate UK. The conversion took a year and required that Magtec understand the operational and payload requirements of an RCV in the Greenwich fleet. ‘We double shift our vehicles, so they need to be able to operate from 6 am to 8 pm without a break,’ explains Olivier. ‘We also supplied fuel data, and Magtec did a lot of calculations to see if they could make it work.’

The 26-tonne vehicle launched in June 2018 and then went through a period of testing and adjustments to ensure all the hydraulics were working properly before going into use in full residential collection in September. ‘We set up a ten-week trial, starting with a single shift of recycling collection then two weeks of general waste collection, then metal Euro bins for recycling and general waste. We’ve had a few issues with the vehicle, but no more than you would expect from a prototype conversion of a nine-year-old vehicle. The trial is still taking place and driver feedback has been really positive. We’re excited about this project because it could be really revolutionary for waste collection, in London in particular.’

With London’s ULEZ on the horizon, electric conversions could help councils with older vehicles comply with the strict emissions requirements. ‘We looked at the business case for several options, and the whole-life costs of converting older vehicles should be cheaper than the diesel alternative – the results of running the electric RCV in our fleet will give us a lot more insight.’

The potential expansion of electric within its fleet means that the council is also looking at its charging infrastructure and the potential for wireless charging at its depot.

Safety

Most of the Greenwich fleet already has low entry cabs in line with the expected Direct Vision requirements, but that is just one element of the borough’s approach to safety. Another is driver training and awareness.

Like so many others who attended the workshops on the second day of Future Fleet Forum 2018, Olivier was impressed by the strategy adopted by the City of New York to make its streets safer. ‘I would like to show that video to our drivers,’ he says of the Drive like your family lives here short film that is used as driver training in NYC and shows the tragic consequences for five families of losing a loved one in an RTC. ‘Over this coming year, we will have a greater focus on drivers and providing formal training for key staff so they can deliver more intensive training to drivers, especially new drivers or those who have had incidents.’

Greenwich has also been making greater use of vehicle telematics and tracking to develop and enforce its new fleet management procedures. ‘The policies go hand-in-hand with the technology. For example, our telematics system provides information on idling, so we developed a policy to reduce idling. We can also use it to improve driving standards and identify drivers who need assistance. We have seen a real improvement in driving behaviour. There has also been a steady decrease in insurance claims against the council and in settlement amounts of the last few years.’

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LAPV (Local Authority Plant and Vehicles) is the only UK information source purely dedicated to local authority vehicles and affiliated plant equipment. Appearing four times a year, it offers well-researched technical articles on the latest equipment/technology as well as in-depth interviews with key industry professionals. More...

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