For many of its customers WCF is something of a ‘one-stop shop’, providing transport services, bulk fuel oil and a wide range of goods. For the operator itself, telematics specialist Fleetboard offers an equally comprehensive range of benefits.
WCF Distribution provides the logistics link to farmers, market gardeners, and food importers and packers, which gets their produce to the supermarkets. That’s not all, though, because WCF’s retail business supplies a wide range of items via mail order: its 10 Pet & Equestrian stores stock a huge range of animal products; its fuel service delivers oil for domestic and greenhouse heating and to power farm machinery; and its WCF Horticulture division packs seed potatoes which are sold through multiple retailers, independent garden centres and mail order specialists.
WCF’s headquarters are still in Cumbria, where it was founded as an agricultural co-operative back in 1911 – although now a private company, it remains partly owned by employees. Its distribution operation, however, is housed in new premises at Burscough, Lancashire. The company runs a fleet of Mercedes-Benz Actros 2543 StreamSpace tractor units that pull Chereau single-compartment insulated trailers with Thermo King refrigeration units. The tractors and trailers are contract-hired from Dawsonrentals, which has an office in nearby Skelmersdale, while the fleet is maintained at the Liverpool workshop of Mercedes-Benz Dealer Roanza Truck & Van.
Like all new Actros, the trucks were supplied as standard with Fleetboard telematics systems. WCF has embraced this technology as a powerful tool to improve not only fuel economy, but also safety, vehicle routing and scheduling, and even drivers’ time management.
“The Actros is an excellent vehicle but Fleetboard is the icing on the cake,” said WCF Distribution General Manager David Lowe. “Our trucks undertake a wide variety of work – on a typical morning one driver might head straight out onto the M6 for a nice steady-speed run to Scotland, while another will spend the entire day making stop-start collections around local farms. This makes it almost impossible to produce a meaningful, like-for-like comparison of fuel consumption figures.
“Fleetboard solves the problem by levelling out the playing field. The system produces a comprehensivereport for each truck every Monday, which takes into account the ‘degree of difficulty’ of the routes it has been on, and covers a range of criteria including fuel use, ‘green-band’ driving, braking power and throttle movements, to produce an overall efficiency score.”
WCF uses this detailed analysis to target drivers needing extra support in the form of additional training and development, and as a result has seen a steady increase in overall performance scores.
Fleetboard’s mapping and time management functions, meanwhile, are monitored in real time in the Burscough traffic office, so that decisions can be made as each driver’s day progresses on any necessary re-routing due to adverse road or traffic conditions.
“The whole system is extremely user-friendly,” said Mr Lowe. “The reports are clear and easy to interpret, and our traffic office staff find the software highly intuitive.
“This winning combination of more economical driving, and efficiency savings achieved by managing and adapting each vehicle’s delivery schedule as the day progresses, obviously benefits the company by helping us to minimise our costs,” said Mr Lowe. “Even more important, though, are the improvements in safety that the encouragement of an efficient driving style brings, through reductions in stress, pressure and fatigue. This means that as well as our company and colleagues, other road-users benefit too.”
He continued: “The drivers have embraced Fleetboard as an important and welcome aid. The days of resistance to any kind of in-cab recording are long gone – driving is a lonely occupation in many ways, and we view anything that increases our level of interaction with staff as a positive.”
“As far as I’m concerned the more we can automate, the better. Fleetboard has proved itself to be a great piece of equipment that helps us to operate more efficiently, and we’re now investigating ways in which we can make even more use of its impressive capabilities.”