MTA 2019 - 0015

Guernsey Post chief executive Boley Smillie (third left) collects the award from Ed Cowell, CEO of sponsor Fraikin

How did Guernsey Post navigate its way through a perfect storm of rocketing diesel prices, soaring emission levels, inefficient routes and rising parcel volumes to deliver a winning solution?

A delivery company that can slash CO2 emissions by 98%, cut route mileage by 15%, power its entire fleet with solar energy and achieve a financial return on investment after four years deserves a prize.

Which is why Guernsey Post’s Project Green Fleet was this year’s winner of the Low Carbon Award at the Motor Transport Awards 2019.

Like many successful innovations the project was born out of necessity.

By 2016 Guernsey Post’s delivery service was under strain. While parcel volumes were growing, its traditional letter volumes were declining by 11% each year, making the firm’s separate letter and parcel delivery networks no longer fit for purpose – not least because bicycles were used on 30% of its routes.

Guernsey Post chief executive Boley Smillie recalls: “Prior to 2016 we had two different delivery networks, basically one for letters and the other for parcels.

“Due to digital substitution, letter volumes were declining between 5% and 10% a year, which meant it was a continual and time-consuming challenge to realign hours with workload to maintain efficiency.

“Conversely, parcel volumes were increasing by 10% a year, a combination of the organic growth of internet shopping and our success in winning new contracts.”

He adds: “To continue to meet the quality and value for money expectations of our delivery partners, we needed to increase our capacity and improve our efficiency by making a substantial investment in our vehicle fleet.”

Something had to be done, but rocketing diesel prices on the island meant the obvious option of increasing its existing fleet of diesel Nissan NV200 vans was off the table, since any route efficiencies gained would be swallowed up by fuel costs and undermined by the increase in CO2 emissions.

Guernsey Post electric van

The company decided it had to take a much more radical route and so Project Green Fleet was launched.

The mission had four key objectives: to cut mileage; eliminate tail-pipe emissions by going electric; generate solar energy to power its fleet; and deliver a financial return on investment.

Radical change

Guernsey Post recognised that if this radical change was to work, the firm had to ensure the workforce was brought fully on board. To this end the delivery teams were given the key role of overhauling the delivery service.

Using their knowledge and experience, along with data from handheld GPS scanners and Guernsey Post’s Quartix vehicle management system, the firm’s delivery teams set about redesigning their own delivery routes, converting cycle rounds to van rounds and creating “once over the ground” routes to maximise efficiency and cut mileage.

Smillie says the benefits of staff involvement were clear. “Within small teams of up to six, all of our delivery staff were given time to redesign their own routes,” he says. “The first section took about six months to complete, which was twice as long as we had hoped, but when eventually the new ways of working were established,everything fell into place.

“After that we threw away the route-planning tools and left the staff to it; the final team completed their work in less than two weeks from start to finish.”

The results were impressive, with 98% of routes converted to van deliveries, ensuring sufficient capacity to meet Guernsey Post’s forecast parcel volumes growth.

In addition, the previously separate letter and parcel delivery networks were combined, delivering a 15% reduction in mileage.

The level of employee engagement also helped them win the Investors in People (IIP) gold award.

The IIP assessor’s report noted that staff were particularly positive about the route rationalisation process.

“People clearly really value the consultation and involvement that they say engendered a feeling of things being done ‘with’ them rather than ‘to’ them,” it said. “People confirmed that these leadership behaviours affect how they feel about engagement and also about how they feel about Guernsey Post as ‘an employer of choice’.”

The next step for Project Green Fleet was to transition to an electric fleet by replacing the firm’s existing fleet of diesel vehicles with electric e-NV200 vans. With the diesel fleet consuming more than 48,000 litres of fuel, resulting in the production of around 129 tonnes of CO2 a year, this was key to the success of the project.

Smillie explains: “Up until 2016 our delivery fleet van of choice was the diesel Nissan NV200. The vehicle met all our operational requirements in terms of size and volumetric capacity.

“However the consequential increase in diesel consumption was unsustainable both from a financial and environmental perspective.

“In 2016 fuel duty in Guernsey exceeded the equivalent rate in the UK for the first time ever, with forecast increases set to continue to be above inflation. Over a five-year period the price of diesel in Guernsey had increased 35%.

“So the efficiency benefits of any route optimisation would be consumed by the rising cost of diesel and compounded by the increased CO2 emissions.”

Nonetheless, it was tempting to stick to diesel vans as the safe and easy option. Smillie adds: “We would still have achieved our capacity and delivery efficiency objectives without having the risk of achieving a return on our ‘green’ investment.

No looking back

“However, when we trialled our first electric vehicle there was no looking back – the feedback from our staff was unanimously positive.

“The environmental objectives were also important to us, we wanted to do the right thing as increasingly our customers and suppliers expect us to consider the environment in everything we do.”

The staged transition to the Nissan e-NV200 van saw 18 vehicles introduced in 2017, a further 31 in 2018 and the final cohort of 33 all joining the fleet by July this year.

The results are impressive. The fleet’s CO2 emissions fell by 15% in the first year, 34% in the second year and are predicted to fall by 53% this year.

Meanwhile servicing and maintenance costs have fallen by 35%, with running costs plummeting from 28.5p to just 2p.

Smillie says the vehicles have more than met the company’s targets. “There is very little that can go

wrong with electric vehicles and the fleet has exceeded our expectations. Our servicing and maintenance costs have fallen by 35% a year. We are closely monitoring the performance of the vehicle batteries, but it’s so far, so good.”

The 645 solar panels will produce 200,000kWh a year

Not content with these savings, in 2018 the company set about gaining planning permission for the largest solar array in the Channel Islands on the roof of its postal headquarters.

Financed through a deal with Guernsey Electricity, the 645 panels were set to become operational in summer 2019 and will produce 200,000kWh of electricity each year, which will exceed the amount of energy required to power Guernsey Post’s fleet of delivery vehicles.

The project also includes the installation of more than 50 charging points on the site. The electricity generated will be supplied to Guernsey Electricity for the grid, so all electricity customers will access locally produced solar energy.

Smillie says: “We are excited that the project completion date is nearing, where all islanders will have access to even more renewable energy. As a business this will help us to continue our efforts to reduce our impact on the environment.”

The power produced by the rooftop solar array, combined with the investment in its fleet, will see Guernsey Post deliver a 98% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020.

The financial benefits have been significant, with the company achieving a return on investment in just over four years – with no government grant.

But Smillie believes an even more important goal has been achieved: “The achievement we are most proud of is that the project shows that objectives relating to optimum financial efficiency and consideration for the environment do not have to be mutually exclusive.”


Guernsey Post

Guernsey Post is a logistics and delivery company based in the Channel Islands. It employs more than 240 people, with annual revenues exceeding £30m.

Each year, alongside its global partners, it exports more than 23 million items worldwide and delivers 17 million items to more than 30,000 addresses.

Guernsey Post provides a delivery service for some of the largest UK mail and courier brands, including FedEx, Hermes, Parcelforce, Royal Mail and Yodel.


From the judges’ mouths

The judges hailed Guernsey Post's seamless transition to an all-electric home delivery fleet, the use of technology to reduce mileage and the innovative collaboration with Guernsey Electricity to install the largest solar array in the Channel Islands on the roof of Postal Headquarters.

They said: “Guernsey Post's transformative project is an extremely bold and innovative solution to reduce emissions. It has been a superbly executed project that took staff and customers with it on its journey."