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Editor Stephen Briers Tel 01733 468024 email News, Media House, Lynch Wood, Peterborough, PE2 6EA. Published by Bauer AutomotiveSubscribe to FNe Click hereDownload FNe Click hereTell us what you think of FNe Click herefleet April 2011Time trialsHow to make longer vehicle life cycles workUtilities sector: Balfour BeattyMinimising driver riskFleet case study: Thames Water The benefits of trainingClick here to find out whyClick here to find howClick here to find out

'Last year's Fleet 200 report showed that 63% of the utility sector opted for a five-year cycle'Utilities reduce costs by minimising van downtimeBy Debbie WoodExtending replacement cycles for van fleets has become more commonplace in recent years as companies look to reduce costs and improve overall efficiency. To make running aging vehicles cost effective, fleets need to minimise downtime and combat the increased maintenance costs associated with older vehicles. Indeed, if the vans are well main­tained, the total cost of ownership (TCO) can prove as cost effective over a five-year cycle as over three. Drivers completing weekly checks can also help keep vehicles on the road for longer (download a weekly vehicle checklist, right).With a fleet of more than 10,000 vans, Centrica has benefited from extending its replace­ment cycle from three to five years."Over the past three years we have proved that well-maintained, reliable vehicles have a lower TCO over five years," says Colin Marriot, fleet manager, Centrica. Last year's Fleet 200 report showed that 63% of the utility sector opted for a five-year cycle, while 25% were four years and 12% six years.Older vehicles are more likely to break down or have technical issues. To combat this, Marriot believes effective down­time management is needed."We minimise downtime through planning scheduled maintenance on engineer rest days or weekends, facilitating collection and delivery, moni­toring vehicle utilisation and condition and ensuring our fleet is well maintained," says Marriot.To help keep vehicles for longer, fleets are also looking to reduce mileage. Marriot believes telematics can help fleets achieve this."Our GPS and telemetry system is delivering operational performance benefits and fleet manage­ment cost benefits." he says."Our average annual mileage has fallen by 8% over the period of intro­ducing this technology. Further gains are expected."For its fleet, the Forestry Commis­sion applies different replacement criteria depending on specification and use of vehicles. Most leased light commercial, business-use vehicles have a five-year term. Outright purchased business-use vehicles' terms are between five and seven years, and a few specialist, low-usage vehicles are retained for up to eight years. Leased management car terms vary from three to five years. The Forestry Commission sees reducing overall usage of the vehicles as a key driver for savings and can make extending replacement cycles cost effective. "The main thrust of savings over the past few years has been to reduce vehicle usage, numbers, size and specification. There is an over-arching policy which ensures that the most efficient travel Regular maintenance and weekly checks can help keep running aging vehicles cost effectiveUtilities Vehicle downtime