The Cullimore Group, a Gloucestershire-based haulage and aggregates business has experienced significant efficiency gains over the last year following the upgrade of its diesel storage facilities to incorporate new technology for monitoring usage and stock management.
Fuel management and measurement is a major issue for anyone running fleets of trucks, excavators and other plant, and until recently was a problem for the Cullimore Group. “We could never reconcile our fuel records, especially the tanks at our two remote sites,” says Site Manager Phil Whitman. “One of our fuelling points in Ashton Keynes [near Swindon] for instance is in the middle of a gravel pit, in a rather vulnerable position.”
The main problem with stock reconciliation was that old fashioned and frankly subjective manual dipping methods meant stock control was guesswork at best. “We would have twenty thousand litres of fuel delivered, and drivers would draw from this using a key-type device but we never got any reporting from it, nothing to help us identify the problem,” says Phil, who decided it was time to look into buying in a new system.
[quote]We sourced the installation from a specialist supplier who recommended Merridale pumps and fuel monitoring – reporting software. This was backed up by some excellent references from other haulage firms that were using the Merridale system. From there we went about placing orders.[/quote]
Installed in May 2009, the digital monitors began to provide lots of data such as the precise amount each vehicle drew each time it refuelled together with the odometer reading. From this input we could calculate the mileage per gallon, our drivers were achieving out on the road.
This information coupled with a live feed of the storage tank contents gave us up-to-the-minute stock figures. By recording the fuel usage the Merridale reporting software showed we had a serious discrepancy in stock levels at Ashton Keynes with tanks much less full than expected. ‘We went through the various auditing processes to check the system such as pump calibration, and all these proved to be within the accuracy of a forecourt or better,’ says Phil, whose suspicions began to rise.
“On closer investigation we realised that we had been losing a very considerable volume of fuel in a short space of time. The Merridale system had identified exactly what time of day, how much was removed and how it was taken out of the tank.”
Phil acted quickly and installed surveillance and other countermeasures to prevent further breaches – and having done so the theft stopped immediately. “You think about the volume of diesel we were losing over the years,” he says, “our accountant always said there was something major wrong. We never believed that someone was taking that level of fuel , but they were, and Merridale picked that up.”
By measuring fuel usage, the new monitoring system has also helped in managing Moreton Cullimore’s carbon footprint, making their fleet more environmentally friendly. “The company owns all our vehicles so collating the fuel efficiency figures allows us to make more informed decisions.
“Surprisingly new engines may be cleaner and more friendly to the environment but they burn more diesel. They certainly need to be driven carefully to get the same efficiency as the older stock.” Such buying decisions are not purely for ethical and ecological reasons but also in order to look after the bottom line.
According to Phil “there is one particular size of cement mixer we bought and will not buy again solely because of the amount of fuel it uses. Because they are road-going vehicles they use white diesel and we have to pay full duty on that.” For the Cullimore Group – like many similar enterprises – this may be an unintended knock-on effect of a simple act of modernisation, but is on reflection a most welcome one from an environmental perspective.