17 November 2020

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Keeping your employees safe when driving for work is an issue that no business can ignore.

Figures from the Department for Transport show that at-work drivers were involved in nearly a third (29%) of all deaths in road traffic accidents in 2018, and accounted for around a quarter (24%) of all injuries.

There is also the issue of fleet efficiency – how are your employees driving their vehicles, and how are you as a business deploying your vehicles? Taking precautionary steps to ensure efficient operation of your employees and your vehicles can result in significant cost savings – experts from the Energy Saving Trust estimate that investing in driver training can provide fuel savings of up to 15% while accidents and claims can be reduced by around a third, according to analysis from IAM RoadSmart.

And should the worst happen to one of your drivers or vehicles, your company could face investigation and possible fines, either under a Health and Safety Executive prosecution or through the Corporate Manslaughter Act.

Making your fleet safer and more efficient falls into several main categories:

1. Assessing the risks

Before you can tackle any problems you may have in your fleet, you need to be able to measure what is going wrong. This will require a thorough evaluation of all aspects of your fleet performance – accident rates, insurance costs, fixed penalty notices, vehicle maintenance costs, driver injuries, lost working hours for staff and vehicle downtime. By doing this you can highlights areas of concern, for instance issues of speeding or careless driving.

Driving for Better Business, a Government-backed initiative, offers businesses a free interactive risk management gap analysis tool to allow you to evaluate the level of fleet-related risk your business is exposed to.

2. Driver training

Changing the behaviour of your employees behind the wheel is the single most effective course of action a business can take. By obliging your staff to undertake training, they are given guidance on how to be a safer and more efficient driver. Training can take place through varying means – online courses, classroom-based workshops and behind-the-wheel assessment. Expert risk assessors then report on your drivers’ performances and highlight any areas of concern.

Obviously there is no general pointer on how much money an individual business can save, but a case study from the AA’s driver training company DriveTech reports that it helped the East of England Co-op reduce accident and claim rates by 32% between 2013 and 2017 after it provided training to its 580 employees who drive for work.

3. Vehicle selection

You spend a lot of time ensuring you select the right people to employ, so why shouldn’t your business take just as much care with what vehicles to use? By implementing a tight, focused choice list, your company can help reduce ‘inappropriate’ cars being used.

Having the right vehicle for the job means analysing business travel patterns to ascertain which vehicle (or, indeed, mode of transport) offers the best solution – drivers doing short journeys in town and city locations may be more efficient in an electric or hybrid vehicle, while sales representatives travelling high mileages may be better in one of the latest RDE-compliant diesel cars. And even though diesel is seeing its market share shrink, it does not mean it should be a no-go area for fleets, as research from Allstar has found.

Future legislation should also be included in your thinking – for instance the Government’s proposals to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030, and the launch of several Clean Air Zones across the country.

It’s also worth considering which items of equipment your company deems to be vital to promoting safety on the road – for instance, should choice lists be based on EuroNCAP crash test scores, or is the addition of preventative measures such as Autonomous Emergency Braking a key consideration?

4. Fleet software

Utilising telematics can have a positive influence on the behaviour of your employees when behind the wheel, as well as helping the business identify problem areas.

Using real-time feedback to an office-based dashboard, a fleet manager can analyse individual journeys and pick out issues to follow up with drivers on, such as speeding, heavy braking or excessive cornering speeds.  

Furthermore, if employees are aware their actions in the vehicle are being tracked, research suggests that they are inclined to drive in a more careful manner – this is known as the Hawthorn Effect.

Using the data can also be instrumental in harnessing a sense of competition between employees – your business could launch a monthly league table and award prizes for the best drivers.

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