Case Study - The British Library


Company Name: The British Library
Business Sector: Public Sector
Postal Address: Boston Spa, Wetherby, West Yorkshire
Postcode: LS23 7BQ
Fleet Size Overall: 3 VW Transporters (1 Site Van & 2 Shuttles)
1 Skoda Fabia Greenline Estate.
Company Cars: N/A
Private vehicles used for business purposes: 75

Company Overview

The British Library is, as national libraries go, relatively young. Its roots lie in the report of the National Libraries Committee under the chairmanship of the late Lord Dainton issued in 1969.  This was followed in 1971 by a White Paper recommending the setting up of a national library for the United Kingdom - The British Library.  In 1972 The British Library Act was passed by Parliament, bringing The British Library into operation with effect from 1 July 1973.

For more information about The British Library and the latest annual report, please visit  Below are some of the interesting facts about The British Library:

  • The British Library receives a copy of every publication produced in the UK and Ireland.
  • The British Library collection includes well over 150 million items, in most known languages.
  • Three million new items are added every year.
  • The British Library holds manuscripts; maps; newspapers; magazines; prints; drawings; music scores; and patents.
  • The Sound Archive keeps sound recordings from 19th-century cylinders to CD, DVD and MD recordings.
  • The British Library houses 8 million stamps and other philatelic items.
  • All this requires over 625 kilometres of shelves and grows by 12 kilometres every year.
  • The earliest dated printed book in the World - the Diamond Sutra - is sometimes on display in The British Library exhibition galleries alongside many other treasures.
  • The British Library has on-site space for over 1,200 readers.
  • Over 16,000 people use the collections each day - both on site and online.
  • Online catalogues, information and exhibitions can be found on The British Library website at
  • The British Library operates the world's largest document delivery service providing millions of items a year to customers all over the world.

The British Library holds some of the great treasures of the World which include:

  • The Magna Carta.
  • The Lindisfarne Gospels.
  • Leonardo da Vinci's Notebook.
  • The Times First Edition from 18 March 1788.
  • The Beatles manuscripts.
  • The recording of Nelson Mandela's Rivonia trial speech.
  • Material ranging from Chinese oracle bones which are over 3,000 years old to today's newspapers.
  • Some 310,000 manuscript volumes from Jane Austen to James Joyce; and Handel to the Beatles.
  • Some 60 million patents.
  • Over 4 million maps.
  • Over 260,000 journal titles.

The British Library occupies three main sites in central London, Colindale and Boston Spa in Yorkshire.

Nature of Operation and Driving Activities

The British Library has a fleet of four vehicles on its Boston Spa site.  The three main vehicles are VW Transporter Shuttles which carry a maximum of one driver and eight passengers.  These vehicles are used for transporting members of staff, visitors and contractors between the Boston Spa site and various destinations within the York, Leeds and Wetherby areas. This is mainly to and from railway stations and airports, but The British Library fleet also collects and drops people off at hotels, conference centres and other academic establishments.  The British Library driving team at the Boston Spa site consists of 2 full-time, 2 part-time, 2 "As and When required" drivers.  In addition another member of staff is available to fill in when required.

The other vehicle is a van which is based on site and delivers goods and books around all the various buildings on the Boston Spa site.

Vehicles are selected to meet The British Library transportation needs but they are also selected to meet high safety standards.  The British Library purchasing policy selects vehicles with driver aids such as anti-lock braking systems, as well as stability and traction control.  Extra airbags and the latest seatbelt technology are always preferable.  The British Library only considers vehicles with a high Euro New Car Assessment Programme (EuroNCAP) safety rating. 

In addition, members of staff may drive their own vehicles on Library business.  However, before this can happen the individual has to fill in a declaration which states that they have told their insurance company about the fact that they are using their own vehicle for business purposes and have changed their insurance details.
The use of a private motor vehicle for official travel is only considered in the following circumstances:

  • Where there is a substantial financial saving for The British Library
  • Where there is any substantial saving in official time. 
  • Where there is insufficient public transport and a hire car is not appropriate.  The Transport and Distribution Manager, Operations and Services North, Boston Spa, can advise staff. 
  • Where The British Library equipment or part of the collections are to be carried and a hire car is not appropriate, the Transport and Distribution Manager, Operations and Services North, Boston Spa, can advise staff.

Organisational Structure

British Library Transport & Distribution Manager David Fisher and the British Library Boston Spa Fleet

The British Library Executive Team has executive responsibility for the management of The British Library.  Its members are The British Library Chief Executive and the senior Directors.  To help The British Library meet its users' needs and fulfill its statutory functions, the British Library Advisory Council advises on major areas of policy and strategy.

The Transport & Distribution Department is part of the Operations & Services (O&S) North Directorate, although the Director responsible for work related road safety and risk is the Director of Human Resources.

Work related Road Safety Policy and Procedures

The British Library encourages a culture of continuous improvement.  The Transport & Distribution Department is very aware of the need to keep improving the service that it provides.  The British Library policy and procedures for work-related road safety are laid down in a "Fleet Policy and Duty of Care" document which has been compiled by the Manager, Transport & Distribution Department.  The Manager is responsible for ensuring that all drivers and members of staff adhere to this guidance.

Over the last year, the Transport & Distribution Department has become involved with the Leeds branch of the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) with a view to improving the standard of driving within the Department.  IAM examiners assessed the drivers on The British Library Boston Spa team.  Each member of the team not at the IAM required standard is now currently undertaking training with a view to passing their advanced driver certification.  This qualification is now a benchmark for the Department and anybody who joins the team will either have to be an advanced driver, or be willing to work towards obtaining this qualification.

Each one of The British Library vehicles is checked daily by the drivers and has a formal monthly vehicle check which is recorded and any issues which arise are dealt with as a matter of urgency.  In addition, all vehicles are serviced at the required specified intervals by the VW main dealer in Knaresborough.

The British Library has been proactive in assessing and minimising the risk of injury and accidents to its staff and its vehicles.  There are risk assessments in place for transporting people in the official vehicles.  In addition, the safety of passengers is one of the key criteria guiding the selection of a particular vehicle for purchase. All The British Library vehicles also carry First Aid kits on board.  

The British Library places a significant priority on managing driver fatigue.  The Department operates between 06.00 - 20.00 hours Monday to Friday.  The solution to this problem is the use of part time and "As and When required" drivers.  The British Library Boston Spa team can call on them to help the team out on early mornings and late evenings. The full time drivers work from around 07.00 until 16.30 but they are on a 36 hour flexible working week.  Each full time driver is obliged to have a lunch break, and a morning and afternoon break as well.  By employing people on an "As and when required" basis helps to cut down staffing costs as the drivers are paid for the time they are actually driving.

Work related Road Safety Guidance for Drivers

All The British Library drivers are made aware of the need to follow the Highway Code and not to break the law.  Even if passengers request that they get to their destination as soon as possible, roads rules and speed limits are never broken or exceeded.  When a driver starts work in the department, they are issued with a folder which has the following information in it.

  • A current copy of the Highway Code.
  • A copy of The British Library "Fleet Policy and Duty of Care" document
  • A copy of The British Library "Assessment of Capability to Drive" document. A copy is also kept with the HR department.
  • A current photocopy of their driving licence (checked annually).
  • A copy of The British Library "Mobile Phone" policy.
  • A copy of the Department Service Level Agreement.
  • A copy of the Department Risk Assessment.
  • A guide to Winter Driving.

Any driving skills certificates the driver obtains whilst working in the Department are registered on file and the originals displayed.  A Daily Journey Log Book is also included in every vehicle and when a journey has been completed, the driver fills in the book to say what time they set off; where they went; how many passengers there were; how many miles they have travelled; and what time they arrived back on site. These books also record exactly when the drivers refuelled the vehicles, how many litres were added and the cost giving excellent and accurate records for future reference.

Auditing and review

One of The British Library key performance indicators for the Boston Spa site is to measure the cost efficiency of its transport and distribution service against equivalent taxi costs.  Since April 2007, the Transport & Distribution Department has achieved an efficiency rating significantly better than the taxi costs.  This has, in effect, generated savings every month.  It is one of the key factors in The British Library running its own transport and distribution department.  This performance is summarised below:

Table 1 Cost of Internal Transport and Distribution assessed against equivalent Taxi costs.

Another KPI used within the Department is the evaluation of the number of people using the official vehicles.  Even with a large rise in people using the video conferencing facilities on site, there is still a great demand for The British Library service.  Factors which have contributed to this demand are the number of contractors and visitors using the service.  There are currently several large construction and IT projects ongoing within The British Library Boston Spa site.  These figures are reflected below:

Table 2 British Library Boston Spa Transport Department Passenger Movements

The British Library takes its responsibilities for Corporate Social Responsibility seriously.  It aspires to be a good local, national and international neighbour by having a positive impact on its communities and being of greater public benefit by doing that which is "beyond business as usual".

  • None of its waste goes to landfill - and most is incinerated to generate electricity.
  • It recycles glass, toner cartridges, batteries, wood, metal, food waste, paper, cans and plastics in its offices and public spaces. In 2008 The British Library increased the proportion of recycled waste from 30% to 55% of the total by weight.
  • It is working with London Green500 on a carbon monitoring service to significantly reduce its carbon emissions.
  • It offers a tax-free cycle to work scheme which passes on tax and national insurance savings to its staff.

The Transport and Distribution Department is also affected by this approach to Corporate Social Responsibility.  It is required to behave ethically and purchase the most environmentally friendly vehicles as possible within its allocated budget.  The use of fuel is monitored and recorded in the Vehicle Driving Log allowing the efficiency of drivers and vehicles to be analysed.

Performance measures

The British Library Boston Spa drivers - Lynne Clayford and Lynne Hullah

The Transport and Distribution Department has its own Service Level Agreement for the delivery of its services.  While the Department always tries to work within its guidelines, on occasions, due to reasons beyond its control, such as trains running late or being cancelled, the Department is not able to deliver its services to the standard required. In these circumstances, the factors causing this aberration are investigated and the client is informed of the outcome by the Transport & Distribution Manager.  There is a Site Wide Management Group meeting every month on The British Library Boston Spa site, where any transport related matters can be discussed.  The Department is keen to ensure that feedback on its performance is received and that its customers understand how it is meeting their demands.

The Transport and Distribution Department Manager has daily contact with the team as well as dealing with any problems that arise on a day to day basis.  Each driver also has an annual Performance Management Review and a Mid-Year Review where any concerns, including conduct or behaviour if necessary either from them or from their manager are addressed formally as part of the reporting process.

Weekly briefings also take place for the driving team where they are kept up to date with any cross directorate information that may affect them and their working day.

Accident reduction

The British Library places great importance on work-related road safety.  By spending time educating and training its drivers the already high standard of their driving has improved even further. 

There has been only one road traffic incident in recent years.  The causes of this road traffic incident were not attributable to The British Library driving team.  Because of this record, there are no official statistics regarding accidents.

Financial and other benefits

The British Library has introduced a series of better driving techniques (in collaboration with the IAM) and green initiatives.  As a result of these initiatives The British Library is expecting all its costs to decrease over the next few years.  These costs include its vehicle and fuel costs, as well as its insurance and running costs.

The running costs for the Transport and Distribution Department for the last 12 months were £82,506.65, compared to the equivalent taxi cost calculated at £115,360.

Lessons learned

By investing time, money and training in The British Library staff, the Transport and Distribution Department has become a more professional organisation.  One of the unexpected benefits is that as well as driving, the team also do the administration for the office including diary bookings for all the journeys.  The team is also responsible for all stationery ordering for Operations & Services (North), maintaining photocopier machines on site and ordering water and paper supplies.  Each member of the team has their own individual skill set and they all bring something different to the table in terms of their experience.

As a result, teamwork has improved and team members now co-ordinate their jobs with one another more effectively.  Although it is a small team, the success of the Transport and Distribution Department has been recognised by The British Library Chief Executive.  It has been held up as an example of how other departments within The British Library organisation should work.

Current and future developments

British Library driver Peter Welton with the new Skoda Fabia Greenline Estate

The British Library is keen to maintain its record of ensuring that its fleet and drivers operate as safely as possible.  However, a developing area of interest for The British Library is improvement to its performance against environmental and efficiency standards.  A survey of the trips that the Transport and Distribution Department driving team undertake was carried out.  Approximately 40% of the trips only had one passenger.  It was therefore decided that the Transport and Distribution Department could operate with two VW shuttles and a car.  After testing and analysing the market, an "eco car" was selected.  The Transport and Distribution Department selected a Skoda Fabia Greenline Estate.  The criteria used to decide which vehicle to purchase were:

  • Cost.
  • Green credentials (cheaper road tax).
  • Fuel economy (estimated to be 60+ mpg, possibly more).
  • Emissions (CO2 = 109 g/km).
  • Passenger safety (driver, passenger, side airbags and other safety features).

As a result of purchasing this vehicle, the Transport and Distribution Department expect to save approximately £2,500 per year from its fuel budget. The Transport and Distribution Department could have bought a smaller vehicle but wanted the flexibility of moving goods as well as people.

Additional Information

The British Library Boston Spa has developed an effective working relationship with the IAM.  It intends to develop this relationship further in the future.

A copy of the Transport and Distribution Department service level agreement has been provided to RoadSafe.

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