What we do
We’ve a highly-trained workforce of circa 3500, 40 + national operational centres, 4 training hubs and a fleet of over 2500 vehicles.
In this Q&A, we speak with Kelly Fleet Operations Director, Dermot Coughlan, to learn about the history of our Fleet Department, its current size and operations, and the innovative technology being implemented to ensure driver safety, efficiency, and sustainability.
How long have you been with the business?
“I joined in September 1991 as a Fleet Administrator when we were based on Masons Avenue in Wealdstone. Later I was promoted to Transport Manager, then Operation Director of Kelly Fleet in 2009.”
Can you give us some background information as to when our Fleet Department was set up, why, and how it’s grown into the fantastic support function that we know today?
“Kelly Group was founded in 1985, and shortly after, in 1989 Larry McGrane (Kelly Fleet Managing Director) joined the Group spearheading a brand-new department, Kelly Fleet. This new department was formed due to exponential growth within the company.
Since its inception in 1989, Kelly Fleet has grown from a modest fleet of 75 vehicles to its current size of 2700 as of March 2023, which has remained consistently above 2000 vehicles since 2014.
Tim Kelly’s (Kelly Group Chairman) decision to operate an in-house fleet function gave the company greater control over the quality in maintenance and administration and allowed us to develop organically while responding quickly to the rapid expansion the company was experiencing, as our reach was spreading across the country, and we were developing a nationwide operation.”
We know that innovation is key to delivering driver safety, efficiency, and sustainability across our Kelly Group fleet - can you tell us what we have done in the past and what we’re currently executing to achieve the continued safety of our drivers, the efficiency of our business and sustainability of our vast fleet while implementing innovative technology?
The safety of our drivers and the public is always the primary consideration in everything we do at Kelly Fleet, and we strive to ensure that we employ innovation and best practices always. Amongst other practices, we have been risk profiling for years – identifying those most at risk of having an accident and using that information in targeted driver training, supporting the development of our drivers.
We have been speed-limiting our fleet of vans since we had the ability to do so and take great care to ensure we provide the right vehicles and equipment for our crews’ purposes. Before manufactures sold speed limited vehicles, we were speed-limiting our vehicles in-house. We’ve always found that if you can prevent poor behaviour by implementing innovative solutions such as speed limiting at the time, we’ve taken the wrong choice away.
The evolution of telematics has given us a real opportunity to improve safety and affect positive change. It gives our risk management team the ability to monitor and subsequently improve the standard of driving across the fleet. We have a responsibility towards our drivers, therefore, adapting telematics within our fleet gave us the ability to measure driving performance and has allowed us to monitor and improve driver performance, create the Elite Drivers Club, and develop a League Table to encourage healthy competition among Cost Centres. It also enables us to quickly identify when a driver may not be fit to drive, and offer support if needed, ensuring the safety of our drivers and the public.
We’re currently trialling internal cameras on our CityFibre contract. It is purely for safety reasons and to improve driving behaviour not to monitor our workforce. None of the footage hits the system of our risk management team’s dashboard unless something has gone wrong, such as in the event of an accident, or not wearing your seatbelt. If you’re a good driver it doesn’t make a difference in your performance, it is in place to prevent future accidents and ensure the safety of our workforce.
Can you give us an understanding of the support teams that fall under the Fleet umbrella?
We manage most of the fleet centrally from our base in Dunstable but Plant and Parking departments are based in Brimsdown. The plant team (Brimsdown and Nuneaton) ensure the supply of equipment to operations and manage the system and physical assets from purchase, through life repair, to disposal. The Parking team at Brimsdown provide our drivers especially in London with advice and training on where to park as well as facilitating payments via systems like Pay by Phone. They also manage payments and the complicated process of appeals where possible.
We have vehicle repair facilities in Ashford, Segensworth, Bristol, Brimsdown, Nuneaton, St Helens, Leeds and, Glasgow. We also have an MOT test facility in Brimsdown as well as an HGV rolling brake tester. All the team are also mobile, enabling them to visit various locations across the country.
Kelly Fleet predominantly operates from Dunstable including services such as:
The majority of our fleet is made up of ford custom vans, supporting our engineering workforce – can you give us some info on any of the more unusual vehicles we have in the fleet?
Like you say the majority of our fleet is panel vans, but we do operate quite a few less common makes. We operate a large number of MEWPs (Mobile Elevated Work Platforms). These are vans with a crane mounted through the roof and a basket at the rear, designed to lift an engineer up to the top of a telegraph pole. We operate several PEUs (Pole Erection Units) which are large HGVs with specially engineered cranes designed to replace telegraph poles from removing old poles to drilling holes for the new poles and their installation.
Kelly Group’s PEUs were bespoke and designed to ensure they’re the right length without compromising the length of poles they’re able to carry while adapting to tighter routes in the country. Longer cranes were installed on some of the vehicles to enable our engineers to work at a small distance from the PEU vehicle. Because of the attention to detail that was given to the design of these vehicles we have been very fortunate and experienced fewer mechanical issues that are common in other large vehicles.
You mentioned The Elite Drivers Club earlier – can you give us some information on this initiative, and how it’s positively impacted our drivers' attitude to safer driving?
The vast majority of drivers want to drive well, and we are in regular contact with our drivers as we are constantly striving to get everyone to improve their safety scores. The feedback we are getting from drivers is very positive. The Elite Drivers Club gives the drivers a measurable target to aim for that does bring a tangible reward.
The standard is achievable but by no means easy, which is also why those who achieve and maintain the standard can really feel proud of their achievement. Safer driving and more defensive driving also create the benefits of reduction of collisions, less stress while driving and fuel savings which is also better for the environment.
Can you give us some information on what Kelly Group is currently implementing and what our future plans are, as we strive towards a greener fleet?
Kelly Fleet like many other large fleets are looking closely at the EV offerings and we have carried out trials of several of the current manufacturer’s offerings. We are currently carrying out a long-term trial of the new Ford E Transit. Fleets in our industry do have some obvious hurdles at present such as the ability of our drivers to charge at home as not everyone has the ability to park on a drive overnight. Public charge points are also nowhere near plentiful enough to support large fleets.
On a more positive note, we are engaging with the Energy Savings Trust and working in collaboration with them to develop an achievable strategy towards a greener fleet.
With such a large number of vehicles within our fleet – have there been any situations where we’ve helped the local community / unique situations, by utilizing our fleet?
There have been multiple occasions when our fleet department contributed to a special event. For example, during the pandemic, we provided one of our vans for a volunteer group that delivered food to those in need.
Our iconic 1983 CF250 Bedford Van has been featured in various events such as Londons Cart Marking Parade for two years in a row and the 2021 Lord Mayor’s Show Parade in the City of London. We also entered our 2021 996cc hybrid Ford van for the 2022 Cart Marking event. Our Bedford Van was representing the Group’s continual work that we have delivered within the City for 30+ years while our 2021 Hybrid Ford Transit Custom Van represented our dedication towards a more sustainable future.
Our Bedford Van was also on show at the 2022 London Irish Vintage Day, displayed within Kelly Group’s sponsors’ bar.
We have run short initiatives like “Don’t Crash for Charity” where the company gave thousands to charities in any week where nobody had a fault accident. We also donated a lot for Children In Need one year which has been featured on television.
Our main objective with these initiatives was to change the behaviour of our drivers. When you put the key into the ignition, you’re not an engineer anymore, you are a professional driver and you have a responsibility to the public, yourself and your own family. Telematics now tells us if you’re a speeder, however, some small changes in driving behaviour can make you an elite driver.
Can you give us your top 3 tips for safer driving?
The Airport Hub,
Furry Park, Santry,
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