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Fleet Profile: Aggreko

Date: 26 June 2023   |   Author: Rachel Boagey

With a focus on safety, environmental, and operational efficiencies, Sarina Vale tells Rachel Boagey her plans to lead Aggreko's fleet into the future.

Imagine managing one of Europe's largest fleets, more than 600 vehicles across multiple countries. 

This is the challenge Sarina Vale has taken on as the newly appointed vehicle fleet manager for Europe at Aggreko - a global supplier of mobile and modular power, temperature control equipment and energy services headquartered in Glasgow, Scotland. 

With more than 15 years of experience in the fleet industry and five years of experience at Aggreko in fleet management and procurement roles, Vale is well-equipped to tackle the task at hand.

We spoke with Vale, who explained she is excited to bring her knowledge and expertise to Aggreko's European fleet in her new role, having gained valuable insights from working in fleet management positions across the UK and Europe. 

Her primary focus in this role is to enhance safety, environmental efficiency, and operational efficiency, ensuring that the fleet operates at its best at all times. She recently moved from her native UK to Belgium with big plans to take Aggreko's fleet to new heights. 

Its UK fleet, which Vale also manages, comprises around 90 cars and 120 LCVs. Vale notes that while the UK and Europe share many similarities in fleet management, there are also significant differences in how things are done.

One key difference that Vale has observed is the regulatory environment. "There are many different regulations and processes to navigate when operating a fleet in Europe, each with its own unique nuances," she explains. "Everyone does things differently, but I'm trying to standardise things
where possible."

A key skill Vale has picked up throughout her career is adaptability. "Having been in fleet since 2008, I know that every day is different, and I'm used to dealing with many different people, departments, and countries. I enjoy this a lot, as I believe that's how I learn - from working with others and seeing how they do things differently and dealing with new people and situations."

The fleet, which Vale describes as very mobile, consists of pre-sales care, events service, and after-sales care. Aggreko has provided generator hire to many major events and businesses, such as supporting the Tokyo Olympics or the Glastonbury music festival. 

Goal #1: Safety

Vale explains that Aggreko's number one goal is safety, and when it comes to the fleet, this means providing safe efficient vehicles to its people so they can get home at night to
their families. 

"My job is ensuring our people have fit-for-purpose vehicles that are suitably specified for their roles, all of which will have the highest possible standards for internal conversion, safety equipment and relevant NCAP ratings," explains Vale.

The company has implemented telematics technology in its commercial fleet to monitor driver behaviour, including harsh braking, speeding, and cornering. "This technology not only improves safety but also provides insights into CO2 emissions and fuel usage," explains Vale. "By analyzing this data, we can support our drivers to adopt better driving practices."

If a driver poses a threat within the fleet, it's Vale's job to express concern and ensure the driver isn't a risk moving forward through relevant training and an honest conversation.

Vale explains that as a fleet manager, she must be aware of these crucial factors such as speeding, fuel consumption, accident management, and potential risks. "Harsh
driving behaviour is a key indicator of driver error, so to support drivers and prevent future incidents, we take a proactive approach by communicating with them and encouraging them to adopt better driving habits. This approach has improved fuel efficiency, reduced CO2 emissions, and other significant benefits while triggering people's mindsets to behave differently," says Vale.

Goal #2: Environmental efficiencies

The drive for businesses, governments, and individuals to transition to a greener, cleaner world has never been stronger. 

As a power provider, Vale says that Aggreko focuses on its sustainability to minimise greenhouse gas emissions from its operations. The company also helps customers to incorporate energy storage and renewables
and invest in sustainable infrastructure.

Aggreko has a working group consisting of several different departments, one of which includes reducing CO2. Vale explains that this not only focuses on the car fleet but also travel overall and the commercial fleet.

In her department, Vale is exploring various strategies to optimise fuel usage and minimize costs, including using alternative fuels and more efficient vehicles.

Its UK car fleet of 90 cars is 90 per cent alternatively fuelled, and Vale is looking to increase that to 95 per cent next year with its next set of vehicle lease renewals. 

Vale and the wider Aggreko team has chosen to include Polestars, Teslas, Mercedes, and Audi vehicles in the car fleet. This decision is rooted in Vale's commitment to ensuring that all vehicles are suitable for their intended purposes and dependable. The preference for premium brands is a reflection of this.

"There has been a big push for environmentally friendly vehicles, and we have carried out a lot of work and research on our car mix, making sure it is suitable for the roles of our drivers," says Vale. 

She also explains the fleet's leasing provider is an integral part of its operations, and her department maintains a close working relationship with them. "Additionally, to cater to the increased demand and to facilitate our expansion efforts over the past few years, we have utilised rental companies and other support services, which have proved beneficial;" 

These relationships proved helpful during the pandemic, and the fleet saw a great amount of support from its leasing provider and suppliers. Vale says, "We're very loyal to those suppliers who supported us through Covid-19."

She exudes a hopeful sense of confidence that the automotive industry is bouncing back from the supply chain disruptions caused by Covid. While acknowledging that the pandemic has severely affected lead times, resulting in vehicle supply issues, model discontinuation, and order holds, she believes that the worst is behind us. Vale says, "Vehicle availability is gradually returning to pre-pandemic levels, which is good. I believe we're coming out of the other end of the storm."

Vale reports that the fleet drivers have responded positively to the transition to
electric vehicles, despite relying on older vehicles while waiting for the supply chain to stabilise. "We recently received a shipment of EVs, which drivers were very satisfied with," says Vale.

While Vale's primary focus was to ensure that the electric vehicles were suitable for
their job and well-received by the drivers, there were some initial concerns regarding the range. However, she affirms that these challenges were overcome through some planning and determination of the drivers.

"Those issues can be avoided at the start of the process through expressing our
expectations to our drivers," notes Vale. "We ask questions such as 'Do you have charging facilities available at your home? Where are you going regarding our sites, and do they have charging facilities? Will you be organised enough to ensure you will pass chargers when you need them?'" 

More often than not, Vale explains that the drivers plan their trips and return satisfied with the range of their vehicles, "but emergencies happen, so we take a balanced view and support our people whenever we can."

Aggreko has taken steps to assist its employees by installing chargers at several of its depots, with plans to add more in the near future. According to Vale, there are three primary reasons for this initiative. "Firstly, it aligns with our vision of the future. Secondly, it is our responsibility to support our people and visitors. Thirdly, we must prepare for the next phase of commercial vehicles being electrified and ensure that we are ready."

According to Vale, the successful integration of electric vehicles necessitates a comprehensive approach, particularly since Aggreko's workforce is highly mobile. As a result, the company is currently engaged in various initiatives to reduce field mileage to facilitate the smooth incorporation of EVs. 

Vale characterises Aggreko's strategy for adopting EVs as 'thoughtful' and explains that the company is not hastily transitioning all vehicles to EVs but, instead, is focused on providing appropriate vehicles for each job while ensuring that the infrastructure supports their business model. 

This approach is part of a broader plan, and Aggreko is mindful of the replacement cycle for its vehicles. They have recently purchased several commercial vehicles on a four-year term, and in 2027, they plan to be in a better position to switch a significant number of vehicles to EVs. 

Vale believes that by then, they'll have made significant progress in internal policies, infrastructure, procedures, external vehicle availability, and choice in the market, as many factors are aligning to support this change.

Goal #3 - Operational efficiency and cost

Another goal of Vale's is improving operational efficiency, finding ways to make the Aggreko fleet more productive and effective in serving customers. This can involve optimising routes and schedules to reduce downtime, improving equipment maintenance processes to minimise breakdowns and repairs, and enhancing communication and collaboration between teams to streamline operations. 

An important factor is also having the right vehicles in the right spec. "Ultimately, it all comes down to putting the customer first and ensuring we support them as much as we possibly can," Vale notes.

Improving fleet efficiency relies on data, something Vale sees as a challenge and an opportunity. "Data is challenging because the amount of information we need to handle daily can be overwhelming, and it's easy to get bogged down in the details," says Vale. 

"In an ideal world, I would love to have one master system that consolidates data from multiple suppliers and generates a monthly report. If such a system exists, I would be willing to invest in it. If you have this... please call me," she laughs. "For fleet managers, managing data is undoubtedly the most difficult area due to the sheer volume of data involved."

Looking to the future

Despite these challenges, Vale is optimistic about the future of fleet management and notes that many exciting developments are happening in the industry, from the rapid adoption of EVs to the increasing use of data analytics to optimise fleet operations. Vale and her team are committed to staying at the forefront of developments and leveraging the latest technology and best practices to deliver the best possible results for Aggreko's fleet.

Vale's experience and expertise in fleet management make her a valuable addition to the Aggreko team. Her knowledge of both the UK and European markets, along with her focus on safety, environmental efficiency, and operational efficiency, will be essential in driving the fleet forward and ensuring ongoing success. With Vale at the helm, Aggreko's fleet is poised for a bright future.