Women in Fleet: keeping costs down while you build your fleet

4 mins read

Women in Fleet
Women in Fleet

Foodbuy is a huge player in the Australian food supply chain. We caught up with their National Fleet Manager Lee McConnell to chat about green technologies, sustainability and how to keep costs down.

Whether you’re looking to buy your first work vehicle, expand your fleet or optimise your existing business plan, it pays to listen to the experts. In this Q&A series, we’re talking to women from across the fleet landscape and trades industries who know how to tackle serious business challenges.

Lee McConnell has been in the fleet operations industry for over twenty-five years. At Foodbuy she manages all kinds of fleets, from garbage trucks to electric golf carts. She’s passionate about future-proofing her vehicles, and we caught up with her to find out just how her team’s doing it.


The Foodbuy Fleet services a number of industries – from agriculture and mining to entertainment and hospitality. As National Fleet Manager, what innovations have helped you keep things running smoothly?

One of the best things we’ve done in the last two years is introduce In-Vehicle Monitoring Systems (IVMS). It’s been a huge improvement to our fleet from a safety perspective. Our drivers now have a duress alarm. They just have to press that and they know we’re coming to get them.

We’ve also found out a lot of things about driver behaviour. It’s not about getting them into trouble or anything like that. It’s about understanding how our vehicles are being driven. For example, we found that some people were leaving cars running for three hours at a time because they were doing the cleaning and they didn’t want the air con to go off. The insurance department has told me the IVMSs will help with their costs too. We just need to collect about six months’ worth of data for them. We’re planning to upgrade the IVMSs to Toyota Connected Services when we can, and we’re looking forward to that.

Foodbuy puts a large emphasis on sustainability. What practices have you been able to initiate to ensure this responsibility is carried through to your fleets?

Cost-wise and waste-wise, we make improvements wherever we can. With our club cars, for instance, we use them around our camps. Because they’re electric they’re quiet so they’re not disturbing the shift workers or anyone else. We’ve got about four hundred of them. I sat with the owners of ADH Club Car – the company that makes our golf carts – and we developed solar power for them as well to convert them into hybrid solar power, battery-electric. Now the batteries are lasting twice as long, with reduced charge time.

Mining is a hard one when it comes to sustainability. And it’s easy to say we’re held back by mining but it’s not an excuse. It’s no reason to stop looking at what we can do more efficiently. With the release of more and more hybrid options, I’ll be looking down that path. Electric to us, is just that little bit further away, in the mining sector. I believe Toyota joined with BHP and Olympic Dam to trial an electric LandCruiser. I’m keeping an eye on that.


How do you think green technologies will shape the fleet industry over the next two to five years?

Two to five, I think you’ll see slowly, slowly, but if we chatted again in five to eight years it’d be a different story. By then I don’t think you’ll see a car that’s not hybrid. Technology improves so quickly. Cost is going to be a big factor in the next two years. But in five, everyone’s going to think, the charge time’s gotten less and the drive time’s gotten further.

What advice can you give to small business owners looking to reduce the environmental impact of their fleet?

Know the products available to you. Every single piece of equipment that I buy, it’s always what’s fit for purpose. A small business for instance, if you were to run a fleet, delivering goods, ask: do you need big HiAces or could you use a combo of a HiAce and a smaller van? Because that’s going to drive down your fuel costs and the cost of the actual vehicle. Don’t overspend on it. Ask: do you need the extra speakers or the leather seats? Nice to have but your drivers might only be in it for three hours a day.

Know the products and know how your core business fits into that cost. And comfort and safety: always think about safety.

“Know the products and know how your core business fits into that cost.”

– Lee McConnell, National Fleet Manager at Foodbuy

A big thanks to Lee for taking the time to speak to us. For more insights on how to keep costs down as you build your fleet, how new technologies fit into the picture and a closer look at how women are helping shape the trades landscape, read the next instalments in our Women in Fleet series here.


This information provided is of a general nature and for information only. Nothing in this article constitutes or should be considered to constitute legal, taxation or financial advice. Before making a decision about any of the products and services featured on this article, you should consult with your own independent legal, taxation and financial advisors, who can advise you about your personal circumstances.

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