Contractors highlight issue of fuel consumption


In the highly competitive contractor market, fuel is fast becoming a key battleground, with contractors in particular looking at making strategic moves to cut and cap fuel costs. Here Andy Clarke from Ingrebourne Valley explains how technology, new equipment and a fuel promise has impacted the business, creating a more fuel aware culture.

“Whether you are looking at tendering for new business, or in our case making strategic decisions about your fleet mix for large earthworks, understanding the impact of fuel costs is vital.

“We all know that the market is very tough at the moment and we see the competition continuing to be very aggressive, even as demand increases.

“To keep control of our costs, we have chosen to run our own plant fleet, in conjunction with our sister company CJ Pryor. Naturally, this means we have looked at a replacement cycle that keeps units fresh, particularly recently with the new emissions regulations coming into play.

“For example, with our current project in Rainham, where we are building 27 new holes for what will be a luxury 36 hole golf course, we are having to shift, shape and process thousands of tonnes of inert material. With up to 400 lorry loads of equipment entering the site each day and some difficult ground conditions, we were really conscious of machine selection and product matching.

“In this application, a higher level of productivity was required, so we recognised that highly fuel efficient equipment like the Cat 336E Hybrid Excavator, was more suited to the task at hand.

“But as everyone knows, when it comes to achieving the fuel consumption rates advertised by manufacturers, there is often a discrepancy between what is on paper and what happens in reality.”

Explaining more on the fuel promise, Finning Product Specialist, Ian Chapman said: “The industry has to move on and away from simply quoting economy figures to customers and battling between us to say which product is better than the other.

“By making this Finning Fuel Promise that a unit will not consume more than a fixed amount of fuel per hour, we are helping customers to fix costs. In addition we are also sending a wider message to the industry that this approach is something that needs to be adopted by others. Fuel is the one variable that if brought under control can really make an immediate impact and with a new equipment fuel promise like ours, it will also help others see that replacing equipment is not just good for the environment, but good for business.”

“This is why when we learnt about the Finning Fuel Promise at Hillhead, we were both surprised by the deal itself and keen to see how it could be incorporated into an overall fleet deal.

“Essentially the fuel promise covers 2000 hours or 12 months of the individual machines’ operation, depending on which comes first. As part of the deal, we first agreed the consumption rates per hour with Finning that the machines’ were expected to achieve. They then offered a remote monitoring service through their Finsight engineering team in Cannock, which would give us access to fuel consumption and other machine health data.

“The whole package was compelling and the fuel promise was certainly a differentiator, so it was a simple decision to become the first business in the UK to take up the fuel promise. In total we purchased two Cat 336E hybrid units with a further Cat 336E hybrid purchased by CJ Pryor. For the first unit we have just completed the 2000 hours of operation and Finning has been true to its promise, crediting us with £629.03 based on the machine using very slightly more fuel.

“From our perspective, this is just part of the overall story. For example, because of the fuel promise, our site team has an incentive to analyse the data sent to us by Finning. So the knock on effect of this is a greater awareness of fuel consumption in general.

“The impact this has had on our wider operations has therefore been significant, especially as we have paired up the Cat 336E hybrids with new Cat 730C articulated trucks, which also report on fuel consumption.

“So when we look at performance over a period of time, comparing it to the weather and site conditions, we can actually make more informed decisions on how we work the site. In practical terms, this has given us the data to manage the fleet more effectively. For example, we know that if conditions get very boggy on site we are faced with higher fuel costs and lower productivity that in some cases does not make it viable to operate.

“This simply relates to higher idle times on the Cat 336E excavators as they wait longer for the Cat 730C trucks to perform dumping cycles and higher fuel burn on the trucks as they wade through the boggy conditions.

“So in this respect we can stand down the team and put them onto other operations like tree planting, to save fuel and machine component wear. Even though with good site management we would have done this, it pays to know what the tipping point is with the fuel consumption, as otherwise you are making a less informed judgment.

“Certainly the fuel promise has made us sharper with the way we look at fuel consumption in general and we can see the long term benefits of using such data. From a contractor perspective it really is all about making every drop of fuel count and ensuring the highest levels of productivity.”