ITT Hub 2022: Lorna McAtear, National Grid

Transport + Energy is carrying out a series of exclusive interviews with a number of guests appearing at this year’s ITT Hub event. This week, we catch up with Lorna McAtear – Fleet Manager at National Grid – who will be speaking in the Energy Theatre Hub.

Q. What has been the biggest challenge to overcome whilst going through the process of decarbonising National Grid’s fleet of vehicles?

A. “Biggest challenge as it always is with anything in fleet is the behavioural change, the human aspect and the communication needed around that.  When you live and breathe fleet and vehicles it is very easy to forget that your drivers and key stakeholders don’t understand all the complexities in the same way that you do.  In order to overcome this you need to paint the picture at all levels and stay consistent with the key messaging.  At National Grid it was all about getting behind the cleaner, fairer, more affordable future. With everyone behind that vision then any perceived barrier just becomes an opportunity to say “right, so what else can we do then?”, “If I can’t do that today, then what can I do instead?””

Q. What are your thoughts on the Government’s Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Strategy?

A. “We are starting to see the mechanisms now for how we are going to achieve the bigger ambition, in some respects the strategy hasn’t really told us anything we didn’t already know, what it has done is formalise it. It has started to put more detail around the plans, how and where the money goes, it details when we are going to find out what the other plans are, for example Spring 2022 we will hear about the overall approach to transforming the electricity network. Personally I found the LEVI (Local Electric vehicle infrastructure) interesting – in particular the sub set fund that helps local councils recruit the people needed to do all this work around infrastructure. So for me it was a huge acknowledgement that there are all these big plans but we also need the people to make these plans work therefore here is some support to do that.”

Q. In terms of charging infrastructure, what improvements are needed to help fleet managers electrify their company vehicles? 

A. “Fleet managers need help to understand that one solution doesn’t fit all, a combination of public, home and depot charging is likely to be needed. When it comes to workplace charging, there is a balance needed between current affordability and future proofing. By that I mean you can invest in workplace infrastructure and put the latest, snazziest, fastest charger at quite a high cost thinking you are only going to do this once and you have future-proofed for the next 20 years, in the same way you would put your bunkered fuel tanks in, except with chargers the technology is moving so fast and those of us that put infrastructure in 5-10 years ago have had to upgrade it already. So the improvements fleet managers need are more in terms of consistency and reliability; alignment of protocols for connections; transparency from providers as to what will change quickly and what won’t; clarity and education in the process for applying for capacity, coupled with a levelling of the upfront costs associated with upgrades and connections. Quite simply, this is new to so many people and it isn’t just the fleet managers that need educating.”

Q. National Grid’s recent acquisition of Western Power Distribution must have brought about new challenges in terms of additional vehicles that now need to be decarbonised. Can you provide any details of the size of the fleet that you and your team are now responsible for and what targets you have set around this? 

A. “The targets for both companies were very aligned anyway, in fact the vehicle types used and the job activities carried out are very similar to that of the fleet in the US. The UK fleet combined is now around 9,000 vehicles, a similar number to that in the US. There aren’t necessarily any new challenges, just more volume of vehicles in the harder to solve categories, all the 4×4’s and specialist kit with vital ancillary equipment. National Grid’s commitment to vehicles is still a 2030 agenda.”

Q. If you could give one piece of advice to a fleet manager who is only just embarking on their decarbonisation journey, what would it be? 

A. “Work out your plan.  Within that plan, set yourself a target. Control what you can control within the plan and don’t panic, you can’t get a 4×4 right now so plan them in for when you can and concentrate instead on the vehicle types that you can change today. Whatever you do though, start, take a first step, any step but do something, that first step can be as simple as saying to someone “I need help writing my plan”.”

Q. What are you most looking forward to at this year’s ITT Hub event? 

A. “I’m actually excited to see how far it has moved on from last year, in particular I’m excited about the talent hub and all the work that has gone in to showcasing all these great roles and that the skill sets needed are so vast and wide that many people can cross-skill from one area to another. That is exactly what Innovation in Technology and Transport is all about, these industries all coming together, combining their existing skill sets and developing new ones as a result.”

About ITT Hub 2022

ITT Hub is the annual meeting place for the commercial road transport sector, bringing together the latest innovation and technology for bus, coach, truck, van, last mile and autonomous vehicle fleets. The event is taking place from 11-12 May 2022 at Farnborough International.

With this sector set to revolutionise as the industry transitions to net zero, the need for collaboration, learning, networking and experiencing is more potent than ever.

ITT Hub provides a platform for showcasing the latest technology, equipment and services in the indoor and outdoor exhibition, learning and collaborating at the high profile Future Logistics conference and the opportunity to experience brand new vehicles in the Ride & Drive test routes.

Energy Theatre Hub 2022

This is the place where debate and discussion on transport issues will have energy running through the heart of them.

Three panel discussions each day with transport industry guests covering the latest topics affecting energy and infrastructure, including daily distribution sessions from National Grid and Western Power Distribution, who are acting as hub partners.

Transport + Energy will be hosting a number of the sessions over the two days of ITT Hub and can be found on Stand 1028 at the event. You can register to attend here.

Image courtesy of National Grid.

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