Safety is one of the most important considerations when operating a vehicle fleet.
According to the HSE it is an employer’s duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees and other people who might be affected by their business. Businesses are required to do whatever is reasonably practicable to achieve this.
This means all businesses whose employees use vehicles for work purposes – whether privately owned or provided by the company – must take steps to ensure the safety of staff on the road and record all measures taken to do so.
But further than this, any efforts made to address safety and fleet risk can potentially deliver a number of incidental benefits. For example, if an organisation successfully encourages its staff to drive in a safer, more efficient manner, this can help save both fuel and insurance costs.
However, initiatives to improve safety and reduce risk can take many forms, so we have asked three fleet professionals to provide their opinions on the best course of action when taking action in this area.
Dave Turner, Business Development Director, Topspeed Couriers
As a carrier of both dangerous and highly secure goods, driver training is of critical importance for us. As a result, all new recruits go on a safe driving course where they drive for 30 minutes with an instructor in the vehicle and are given tips on how to improve their performance.
But even if you give employees training, they may not apply any lessons learned when they are back in their own vehicles, so telematics data is also crucial. This data helps us to reinforce the messages delivered through training and make sure drivers are applying them.
We have a mantra that it’s important to get the job done right and safe no matter how long it takes and our drivers are rewarded accordingly. We don’t want our drivers feeling under pressure to get jobs done and potentially speeding as a result. We try to take the pressure off and then manage customer expectations better by using the telematics data to keep them informed about order progress.
We also incentivise good driving by providing bonuses to drivers for achieving performance targets. These targets are not based on the number of consignments delivered but instead on driving legally, safely and in a fuel efficient manner. Performance is continually monitored using our telematics system, rewarding those who perform above the basic standard.
If drivers’ performance profiles are not good, we will drill down into the data to see what the issue is – such as erratic driving or speeding – and first offer retraining. Only if the driver does not respond to this will we go down the disciplinary route.
For me, it’s all about driver behaviour. Most people know how to drive safely but sometimes they choose not to do it.
The challenge for businesses is to ensure drivers make a decision to drive in a safe and risk-free manner when they get into the cab or into the car.
Communication is key to changing driver behaviour. One of the challenges for an organisation like ours is that most of our drivers who aren’t driving cars don’t have an email address or access to the internet because they’re driving to a job to carry out a day’s work.
So we’ve had to be fairly inventive in the way that we communicate to make sure it’s a consistent message. There’s a lot on our intranet but we also have a series of formal communications that go out at various times of the year.
If there’s a change in legislation, that will go out as a ‘toolbox talk’, which will be given by a manager and recorded to ensure everybody knows what’s going on.
In terms of driver behaviour, we actually go out to the contracts and do driver behaviour sessions and these can be around a number of things, such as speeding, drugs and alcohol and seatbelt use.
One of the things it’s important to do is to give a message that drivers will buy into and get involved in. There’s nothing worse than just standing and talking at a driver for an hour because they might just lose track after 10 minutes. So one of the things we do in the driver behaviour sessions is a number of quizzes and we’ve had a really good response to that.
Mike Rayner, Director, Turris UK
Improving safety has to be a cultural change within the company and should be implemented from the top down.
If there is an unsafe working environment, much time and money can be spent implementing new safety rules and guidelines but organisations may find that the change does not have a lasting effect as management focus changes and employees return to old habits. To help prevent this situation from recurring, the entire culture throughout the organisation must change, led from the top and embraced from the bottom up.
It can be fairly straightforward to design and to start a programme for change if you are clear about what you want to achieve, however changing people is much more difficult.
There are many techniques available to incentivise staff to change but the bottom line is that it is the responsibility of the management team to ensure and enable that safety is implemented at all levels. Managers should realise that if their staff are allowed to conduct themselves in an unsafe manner that they are responsible for that happening. Leading by example is the only way to implement and maintain a cultural change.
It is important for management to outline their commitment to safety in a clear and unambiguous manner. Regular and open communications are important to reinforce key messages with employees, allowing them to ask questions, challenge decision, and help in developing change ideas and processes to enable ownership at all levels.
For real-life examples of how businesses have improved fleet safety, take a look at the case studies below:
- Savings of £22,000 a month at Zenith Hyigiene Group
- £60,000 insurance saving in just 12 months for Breyer Group
- 66% reduction in accidents for Blackbourne
Disclaimer: The content of this blog is general and should be used for your reference only. Note that it is not meant as a substitute for legal advice specifically directed at your business and taking account of the particularities of your situation. Always consult a qualified legal professional before making decisions about your risk management strategy and/or the compliance of your business with legal obligations.