With deliveries a crucial element of a builders’ merchant’s service offering, running a cost-effective and well-maintained vehicle fleet is essential. PBM speaks with Tim Houghton, Managing Director of FVTH, about the advantages of partnering with a specialist rental and contract hire operator.
Faced with long term cost pressures, tight business margins and increasing regulatory and compliance pressures, ensuring the efficiency of a transport fleet can be a challenging proposition for the merchant sector. With commercial vehicles — new and used alike — also commanding higher prices in recent years, the situation is further compounded by increased lead times on builds and ancillary items such as cranes.
Accordingly, it perhaps comes as little surprise that Tim Houghton, MD of FVTH, asserts that many fleet operators across the country are now reevaluating their approach and are increasingly seeing the benefit of contract hire — reinforced by short-term rental — as an alternative means of securing their vehicles.
He said: “With longer lead times and seeing commercial vehicles increasing in price, would you want the capital outlay or rather invest in your stock? Plus, from a compliance point of view, a lot of the issues can be offset to the contract hire provider who can provide the peace of mind that the asset is legal and roadworthy.”
With over 30 years’ experience in the UK, FVTH was initially formed by two brothers — Jim and Colin Brown — as Farnborough Van & Truck Hire and now works with over 100 customers across a variety of sectors. Understanding the challenges that operating a commercial fleet can bring, the bulk of its business is connected to contract hire arrangements whilst the firm is also able to offer its clients the additional support of short-term rental — ensuring that fleets are working to maximum capacity.
Relationships with builders’ merchants and the supply of crane vehicles has been a continual part of FVTH’s evolution, meaning that the business can offer valuable insight and support for the requirements of the sector. As Tim succinctly says: “Your world is selling bricks, but ours is looking after trucks. Your transport manager may have other responsibilities, but all the people we employ are truck people — we can offer 24/7 support along with full guidance and advice on your vehicle choice and ancillary equipment specification.”
Indeed, FVTH says it can offer “all types of commercial vehicles from 3.5t through to specialist vehicles and 44t tractor units” with its main range being 18 and 26 tonne rear-mounted brick grab vehicles to typical builders’ merchant specifications. Furthermore, the business is “totally independent and not linked to any one manufacturer” and so can recommend and offer “the best vehicle for the project.”
And with strong relationships with many suppliers in the industry, bespoke vehicles are part of the FVTH offering with specifications discussed and agreed during the negotiations around the contract hire package.
For instance, the company has been a long term “trusted partner” of Lords Builders Merchants and has recently supplied an additional eight vehicles which mirrored the merchant’s existing fleet, utilising Mercedes with HMF Cranes, Brigade Cameras and Bevan Bodies. It has also supplied a separate division of the Lords Group with a Pallfinger crane and a drawbar chassis to meet its specific operational needs.
Lords MD Darren Price said: “FVTH has worked with us for the last twenty years supplying rental, contract hire and bespoke vehicles. As a working partner they are great, and one of their strengths is their flexibility and adaptability — small enough to be nimble and quick to make decisions, but large enough to be able to provide excellent service across the board.”
Tim added: “In the last five years, the FVTH builders’ merchant fleet has grown with the addition of many 18t and 26t crane vehicles, some with brick grabs as well. Our offering to supplement peak requirements and supply bespoke contract hire solutions has enhanced the value proposition for all customers.”
Furthermore, the truck specialist also emphasises the importance of its wider support package, highlighting that “choosing the right vehicle manufacturer and support maximises the success of any fleet and its operation.”
Its main operations team is based in Colnbrook, close to Heathrow Airport, and this is also the location of its maintenance service. As Tim says: “modern vehicles are technically advanced, and things can go wrong; having a supplier that can steer and manage that process is vital.”
Using the leading r2c maintenance software — a planned maintenance platform that allows online access to all planning, service sheets and services — the business can offer its customers the reassurance that all their maintenance regimes will be kept compliant and in line with their Operators Licence rules and regulations.
And with many customers operating vehicles outside of its own workshop catchment areas, FVTH will also work with its partners to outsource maintenance services to nearby approved dealers taking into account the local availability across the country.
Meeting the ever-increasing demands for Health and Safety and government legislation such as ULEZ and DVSA is also an essential component of FVTH’s offer. For example, specifications for all new vehicles include built-in fall arrest systems, rear access steps, remote control cranes and 4-way recordable cameras.
Beyond this, the company says that it has worked with leading suppliers such as DAF, Bevans, HIAB and Spillards safety systems to effectively develop an “industry standard vehicle” that will satisfy its customers’ requirements — and ensuring that when a short-term vehicle is hired from FVTH, the specification will always be the same.
Acknowledging that there are lots of opportunities for customers to acquire their fleet from many outlets and manufacturers whilst also recognising that the challenges facing the industry for vehicle and ancillary equipment maintenance has always been difficult, FVTH asserts its confidence in its all-encompassing alternative to the potential downsides of outright purchase.
As Tim concludes: “FVTH does not just offer a wide range of construction rental vehicles, we offer a total package including maintenance support, fleet services through r2c, vehicles to supplement peak requirements, a compliance team, a fast response available 24/7 and dedicated high service levels.”
Click the link for more information on the full range of services available from FVTH.