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Latest VLS News

Four of our most memorable specialist vehicles of 2018

Four of our most memorable specialist vehicles of 2018

Investments in our customers’ fleet replacement programmes saw the delivery of some innovative and specialist new vehicles in 2018 including four particularly memorable arrivals.

Sand skimmers: Two Puma sand skimmers arrived in March joining the filter beds fleet at Essex & Suffolk Water. The vehicles feature laser levelling technology and interchangeable heads for skimming and levelling.

Digger Derrick: The first of its kind ever commissioned, this digger derrick is articulated and insulated and can carry poles and transformers, dig holes with the auger, plant and remove poles and has a detachable one man bucket too. It joined Northern Powergrid in October.

Silent Power electric van: One of three to join Northern Powergrid’s silent power fleet in the summer, the vehicles use an onboard energy storage system to provide a clean and silent temporary power supply to between one and seven domestic customers during power cuts.

NWGrow Biosolids wagon: Four specially designed 8-wheeled rigid tipper wagons joined Northumbrian Water Group’s bioresources fleet in September to transport digested sludge cake for use in agriculture.


Keeping utility fleets fit for the future

Keeping utility fleets fit for the future

VLS provides vehicle leasing, fleet funding, fleet management and maintenance services across the UK with a focus on delivering innovation, compliance and efficiency to ensure customers’ fleets are fit for the future.

A utility industry specialist, VLS is owned jointly by its major customers Northumbrian Water Group and Northern Powergrid. Other utility customers include Essex & Suffolk Water, Integrated Utility Services and Northern Gas Networks. In total, VLS manages over 4,500 vehicles across 100 operational sites for its customers.

Daniel Keating, managing director at VLS explains: “The utility industry has unique challenges and we understand this and provide a comprehensive range of services which we tailor to meet the exact needs of each customer. One size certainly does not fit all and we provide a consultancy style of service in order to scale what we offer and provide flexibility as needed.  This approach ensures their fleets are fit for the future.

“We can negotiate substantial discounts to purchase vehicles due to the volume of vehicles we buy through a combined procurement process with our parent companies and other utility providers. This economy of scale ensures cost effectiveness for customers.

“We can buy and then lease back vehicles of all types to supply our customers with whatever they need. From technically complex specialists, HGVs, plant & equipment, passenger carrying vehicles to light commercial vehicles and company cars.”

When specialist vehicles are required, VLS works closely with its customers to deliver highly innovative bespoke solutions. For example, VLS developed six highly specialised new vehicles to help maintain the electricity distribution network and delivered them to Northern Powergrid this year. The vehicles enable operator crews to access hard to reach terrain and include three Unimog crane wagons, a tracked pole carrier and two Unimog Hotglove Insulated Aerial Device vehicles which allow safe maintenance on live power lines.

Minimising downtime is crucial to operate the essential services provided by the utility industry.

Dan explains: “All fleet vehicles are supported throughout their lifetime and customers receive a fast response whatever they need from our fleet management contact centre and maintenance workshops. From scheduling routine services and maintenance inspections to booking short term hire vehicles and organising emergency tyre and glass replacement, roadside recovery and accident management, VLS people are committed to keeping fleets fully operational around the clock.”

He adds: “Everyone at VLS understands the operational needs of our utility customers. We operate our own regional maintenance workshops as well as a network of 300 quality-audited garages to ensure vehicles are kept on the road. All fitters are highly skilled and trained to maintain the full range of vehicles, plant and equipment within customers’ fleets. The whole team recently completed training on maintaining electric vehicles for instance.

“As well as being technically competent, we pride ourselves on continually providing a first class, friendly and personal service. This is demonstrated by the feedback we receive in our customer service and satisfaction measurement of our customer experience.

“Managing compliance on behalf of customers is core to the service we provide. As a business we have invested in our IT systems to offer a market-leading integrated compliance solution. We are able to link drivers, vehicle defect recording, workshops, fleet management software and customer web-reporting interfaces. This optimises operational efficiency and ensures compliance targets are met. A recent auditor noted our high HGV MOT pass rates and commented that our compliance metrics were the envy of the industry. We have also developed our systems to link to the DVSA Earned Recognition scheme which will enable our customers to prove they meet the required driver and vehicle standards.”

Quality and compliance is managed rigorously within VLS which is certified to ISO ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 standards and in June was awarded certification to the ISO 27001 standard to recognise effective information security management.

Dan concludes: “Ensuring our customers’ fleets are fit for the future means continuously improving our service and innovating through technology to stay ahead. Our utility customers are beginning to embrace the advances in alternative fuel technology and this will continue to grow. Drivers of the future will see certainly their everyday journeys transformed and future fleets will encompass a broad mix of exciting emerging technologies.”

Read more about VLS here