North West Wales

Conwy council teaches staff how to cut fuel costs

A council is teaching staff to drive in a more fuel-efficient way, which it hopes will save over £100,000 a year.

Conwy council has more than 350 vehicles and spends over £1m a year on diesel and petrol.

Officers say the lessons will be included in routine driver retraining at no extra cost.

The authority says it has already started to notice savings, but some say that new technology also being used could be viewed as a "spy in the cab".

Phil Newell, a driving instructor for the council, said fuel-efficient driving meant thinking ahead.

"We're teaching drivers to be more aware of the environment, to take action well in advance of any hazard that they see," he said.

"We expect them to accelerate and brake more smoothly, use more appropriate gears, and generally try to drive more efficiently.

"The figures are not conclusive as yet, but already we can see quite a marked decrease in driver errors, and a more increased fuel efficiency regime within the council."

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Media captionA council says it can cut its fuel bills by more than £100,000 a year by teaching its staff to drive in a more fuel-efficient way.

European rules mean that many professional drivers now have to do 35 hours of retraining every five years, to earn a Driver Certificate of Personal Competence, or Driver CPC.

The council says it has added the fuel efficiency course to that existing training schedule, at no extra cost.

It now uses tracking software which logs how well a vehicle is being driven. Some vehicles also have alarms which warn when the driver is wasting fuel.

Peter Barton-Price, the council's fleet manager, said: "Realistically, we can look at saving 10% of our fuel costs within year one.

'Greener environment'

"The further we drive this, the more savings we can make. We're also looking at hybrid vehicles, which run partly on electricity, and at the way that we operate, and the way our rounds and schedules work.

"It's not just about saving money. We have an obligation to look at fuel efficiency as part of our commitment to a greener environment."

But the new technology has raised some concerns. In a recent council meeting, one member said it could be regarded as "the spy in the cab".

The council said the software was only for research at the moment, and it would not be used to discipline or warn staff until it had written rules and policies on how the information could be used.

John Thomas, one of the council's refuse lorry drivers, said he was not too worried.

"The supervisors know our rounds anyway, and they can pop up at any time," he said.

"Having the technology in the cab doesn't make any difference. It'll show us as drivers what fuel consumption we're doing, and where we're going wrong."

He added that he had found the fuel efficiency training useful.

"With some of the tight streets in Conwy town centre, you're hardly using any fuel.

"But when you get to the hills, you're using more, and when the lorry gets heavier throughout the day, you're using more.

"It's interesting to work out the round out and see how you can drive better."

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