Turn the clock back five years and Slam Transport faced some tough challenges. A company which started out by distributing VHS videos before moving into deliveries of CDs and DVDs, was under serious threat from the increasing popularity of music and video streaming.
Today, with the support of telematics specialist Mercedes-Benz FleetBoard, the Coventry-based operator is growing strongly, taking on new trucks and drivers, and looking to the future with optimism.
Key to this renaissance is the relationship that Slam Transport has forged with the Internet’s best-known retailer. Business between the two companies started small in 2012, but in the last couple of years has really taken off.
Slam is commissioned by its high-profile customer to move all kinds of consignments, except hazardous goods, primarily between a nationwide network of fulfilment centres. While much of this work involves regular runs, the operator must also be ‘light on its feet’ to accommodate special requests and changes to schedules.
Transport Manager and co-owner Danny Gould explained: “Our customer has a fantastic business model, and is very demanding. Everything is time-critical and the situation is constantly chopping and changing, with jobs being cancelled and others put on all the time. It’s our flexibility and ability to respond rapidly to new requirements that helps to explain our success.”
Mr Gould and his colleagues have come increasingly to rely on Mercedes-Benz FleetBoard’s powerful yet easily applied technology to assist them in the smooth, efficient and compliant operation of their vehicles.
Slam Transport has traditionally favoured a French truck brand. It was not until late 2015 that the operator purchased its first Mercedes-Benz models. Today, having just commissioned three new Actros 2545s with StreamSpace cabs from Dealer Midlands Truck & Van, 28 of its 75 tractor units wear three-pointed stars. So, too, as the fleet continues to grow, will future acquisitions.
“The Mercedes-Benz Actros is a great product, reliable, fuel-efficient, comfortable and backed by a fantastic after sales service,” said Danny Gould. “Factor in FleetBoard as well, and it adds up to an unbeatable package.
“We also use our other supplier’s telematics system and I won’t knock it. Overall, though, FleetBoard is better by far; I’m on it all day long and am now actively encouraging our planners to do likewise, because it’s such a brilliant management tool.”
Mr Gould continued: “We particularly value the visibility and control that FleetBoard offers. Its Mapping function, which includes live traffic information, means we always knows in real time the precise location and status of each vehicle.
“The best thing for me, though, is the Time Management facility, and the way it helps me to keep the drivers ‘legal’. FleetBoard summarises driving and rest periods, so we can easily and efficiently plan trips based on drivers’ remaining hours. I can see what they’ve done, and more importantly how long they have left.
“There have been several occasions on which we’ve called a driver to remind him he’s down to his last 15 minutes. Of course, he’ll invariably tell you he was aware of this and just about to pull over. But there are certainly no complaints about a ‘spy in the cab’ – given what’s at stake, it’s as reassuring for the drivers as it is for us that we’re able to keep an eye on them.”
Slam Transport makes full use too, of the telematics system’s remote driver card download service. The driver needs merely to insert his card into the FleetBoard ‘black box’ computer installed in the vehicle cab, to transfer the data from his tachograph back to headquarters.
“We’ve always asked them to come in and download their cards once a week,” explained Mr Gould. “But drivers being drivers, you’d often find they’d gone two or three weeks without doing so. Also, we have people up in Scotland who never come back to base. The remote download facility means they don’t have to put in an appearance – everything is done at the press of a button, which makes life so much easier.”
Meanwhile, like so many other customers, Slam Transport uses FleetBoard’s driver and vehicle analysis to achieve valuable improvements in fuel efficiency. The system records and processes technical data from the truck, then rates the driver’s style at the wheel. Criteria monitored include speed, braking, stops and idle times with the engine running, and use of the vehicle’s Eco-Roll function. Drivers are graded on a scale of 1-10, with scores weighted according to the ‘degree of difficulty’ of the assignment.
Where shortcomings are identified by FleetBoard, Assistant Transport Manager John Dornan, who doubles as the company’s Driver-Trainer, will deliver targeted instruction to address the issue and get the individual concerned back up the Slam Transport drivers’ ‘league table’.
“Since we introduced the Actros we’ve seen average driver grades improve from 8.2 to 8.8,” said Mr Dornan. “As a result, our economy figure has shot up from 10.2 mpg to 11.5 mpg. That’s worth a fortune to the business, and there’s still room for improvement.”
The operator’s Coventry-based vehicles are inspected and serviced at the local branch of Midlands Truck & Van. “The Dealer’s back-up is superb,” added Danny Gould. “We must drive them crazy sometimes, with our constantly changing demands, but they are extremely accommodating.”