Fuel economy is hugely important to any fleet. Often, it is the second biggest expense after wages, so any savings that can be made have a significant impact on the success of a business.
This holds greater truth for a company that is unable to pass on the costs of a rising fuel spend to its customers or clients.
"Everyone's under pressure. Funding support for the industry is being cut continuously and some businesses are in the fortunate position where they can pass those cuts on to the customer. We're not in that position. If we put our ticket prices up – and we've seen this before – people will walk away," says Gareth Mole, engineering director at Cardiff Bus.
Fuel expenditure is Cardiff Bus's second biggest outlay and a base rate of fuel that has been sporadically rising over the past three years has caused problems for a business that aims to provide a public service to people who themselves are struggling to maintain budgets in a tough economic environment. These problems have been compounded for Cardiff Bus by the fact that they have seen a 25 per cent reduction in the Regional Transport Services Grant (RTSG), which is the money fleets get back from the Welsh Government for running a public service.
It is an ongoing twofold issue of increasing fuel prices and dwindling subsidies and the fleet operator needing some way to control one of their biggest costs.
Gareth explains that unlike public fleet operators in Scotland and England, those in Wales cannot currently apply for any Green Bus funding. However, Cardiff Bus still needs to present value to their customer base, so the way forward was an easy decision for all involved.
The Team evaluated the prospective offerings of five different companies who offered some level of fuel efficiency boost before deciding that the package offered by MiX Telematics was the most comprehensive.
With the capacity to purchase new vehicles being limited, the solution needed to be a sustainable one that could work with their Certificate of Professional Competence fuel efficiency driver training scheme for the foreseeable future. Gareth explains that he wanted to constantly review what he was getting from the fuel efficiency solution to see how it was performing and allow them to maximise their investment and offer their customers the best value in their service.
MiX's technology and services package was more than capable of providing this hands-on management
"We started off doing the basics of fuel efficient driving – acceleration, speed and braking control – with the MiX FM Web systems in place. The one thing that attracted us to MiX was their ability to measure idling. We had big issues with idling around the city and within the depot at the time and we made substantial savings just by managing that aspect of the vehicle and driver performance," says Gareth.
Cardiff Bus has more than 500 drivers and they can all log on to their own individual MyMiX profile and see where they can improve and make their journeys more fuel efficient – something that is always supported by extra training.
Gareth has seen the service engage the drivers and explains that they can all understand the importance of fuel economy, as they see their own costs go up when filling up their cars at the pumps. He states that as part of the training process, drivers are told that the money-saving skills they learn at Cardiff Bus are easily transposed to their home lives and this really motivates them.
For the business, the system is targeting a double-digit fuel saving, but Gareth says that the benefits have not only been confined to fuel economy. "There are the intangibles – how many suspension’s components less are we changing? How many gearboxes less are we changing? How many less accidents are we having? If you have one less major accident a year, it pays for your MiX subscription."
He states that the system started off slowly as he wanted the workforce to embrace it in manageable steps, but now Cardiff Bus is really starting to see the benefits.
"We're trying to use it for customer comfort, vehicle damage that may be caused by accident or road condition and we've also used it to monitor engine temperature, which we believe has already probably saved us around three engines in terms of giving the engineers an early warning that something's not right," he adds.
So far, it has been a savvy investment in green technology that has enabled Cardiff Bus to be proactive and keep public transport prices at a level its customers can afford.
MiX Telematics aimed to be a partner rather than a provider and immediately recognised some of the individual challenges that a major bus operator in a large European capital city such as Cardiff Bus would face on a daily basis and set about building their services on that basis.
"Their support is the one area above all that I would recommend to everybody. Their support, of all the companies I deal with, is exceptional," enthuses Gareth. "If you have a question they answer it, if you need information, they get it.”
MiX have regularly held meetings not only with Gareth and his operational team, but with the drivers who use the system out on the roads every day.
"They'll sit in the canteen with the drivers and take questions from them, which get rid of a lot of the paradigms and rumours – and this is years after we've brought the technology in. Superb support. Cannot praise it enough," he concludes.
About MiX Telematics
MiX Telematics is a leading global provider of fleet and mobile asset management solutions delivered as SaaS to customers in 112 countries. The company’s products and services provide enterprise fleets, small fleets and consumers with solutions for safety, efficiency and security. MiX Telematics was founded in 1996 and has offices in South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States, Uganda, Brazil, Australia and the United Arab Emirates as well as a network of more than 130 fleet partners world-wide. MiX Telematics shares are publically traded on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE: MIX) and on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: MIXT). For more information visit www.mixtelematics.com.