The Importance of Fleet Risk Management
Driving is dangerous!
Whenever we drive there is a risk of collision. Whenever people drive for your business, then that risk becomes your responsibility! For some people this risk may be very small. For others, the risk may be somewhat higher, with poor hazard skills, lax attitudes towards safety, and even personality playing a role. Alternatively, the vehicles may contribute to the risk of collision, especially if grey fleet vehicles (employees own cars used for business travel) do not meet minimum safety standards.
Managing and minimising your fleet risk is a legal requirement. Under the Health & Safety act 1974, as a company, you have a legal obligation and a duty of care to all employees, including drivers, to ensure their health, safety, and welfare at work – this includes all employees driving for work, as well as grey fleets. However, a successfully implemented risk management strategy can also offer great benefits to companies, ranging from reputational protection, to cost savings on collisions. Safer driving will even reduce fuel consumption across the fleet.
Your risk management strategy begins with understanding who drives in your organisation, where and why they drive, and what vehicles they are using. This allows clear policies and regulations to be drawn up that define the expectations and responsibilities placed on both the business and the drivers. Effective fleet risk management must also be coupled with compliance checks (e.g., checking for endorsements on drivers’ licences), and assessment and training of drivers to mitigate their risk. Policies must also be clear on the processes to be followed in the event of a collision, including the reporting of all collisions, even within your grey fleet.
Importantly, your risk management plan needs to be a living document that is reviewed and updated regularly. Navigating the legalities of this can however be a challenge and it is important that you understand how to fulfil your obligations. Current national financial pressures understandably result in companies seeking to reduce costs but skimping on road risk management is a false economy. Serious collisions can have huge financial ramifications for a company, and there is even the threat of a corporate manslaughter charge for the most severe cases.
How do you manage fleet risk?
To ensure safety, risk assessments should be conducted and reviewed on a regular basis. This includes the assessment of drivers, vehicles and even of situations that occur on a regular basis where risk is common. Unfortunately, there is no universal solution when it comes to fleet risk management, though there are generally four key areas that should be of priority when considering fleet risk, and these must consider compliance:
Regardless of whether your employees are driving a company vehicle or their own personal vehicle, if it is used for company purposes, the company has a responsibility for ensuring that it is road worthy and fit for purpose. The vehicle must be inspected on a regular basis, maintained correctly, and be equipped with appropriate safety equipment. The Health & Safety executive recommend that drivers perform checks on tyres, lights, and indicators daily, at the beginning of their shift. To complete these correctly, employees should be given training and guidance on the correct reporting processes. In addition to this, planned maintenance should be scheduled to prevent failures. These should be frequent enough to meet the manufacturers guidelines.
For some companies, this may sound like a logistical nightmare. You can outsource these operations however, or if you are managing your fleet internally, you might want to invest in fleet management software. There are several good brands on the market that can assist with this task, where vehicle inspections and maintenance can be scheduled, and all relevant documents can be automatically uploaded to provide reports and alerts to managers. The use of telematics is also becoming increasingly popular with fleets. By tracking hours of use, more accurate scheduling of maintenance work can be made to keep the vehicle in good condition.
Effective route planning can make better use of resources and increase safety by reducing the amount of time a driver spends on the road. By reducing travel time, it can reduce wear and tear on the vehicle and save on fuel costs, as well as increasing driver well-being. Where possible, journeys should be planned in advance to minimise risk for drivers. However, if this is not possible, there are several routing and scheduling software packages available that can automate this process for you and your drivers.
For delivery drivers, an additional advantage is that they will spend less time trying to find locations.
For drivers, work schedules should be reasonable with driving breaks factored in. Also consider the weather and any adverse road conditions that may arise. The winter months provide the most obvious example of such challenges, though spring floods, high crosswinds, and scheduled road maintenance can be equally disruptive or even dangerous.
When it comes to employees who drive for company business, there are several ways to stay compliant. First, they must be legally entitled to drive that type of vehicle. Prior to drivers even entering the vehicle, you should check that they hold the correct licence or certificate for that vehicle. Just checking once is not enough, regular checks with the DVSA should be completed to check their driver history for endorsements or even recent driving bans. These checks can be made directly with the DVSA (providing you have the signed permission of your drivers), or you can employ a licence-checking company to undertake this task for you.
Your carefully crafted transport safety policies can only be effective if your drivers are aware of them. Getting drivers to read large policy documents can be a struggle, however. Instead consider breaking down your policy into smaller documents that are less intimidating and allow drivers of different vehicles or in different job roles, to access only those policies that are relevant to themselves. You may also look to communicate policies directly to your drivers through classroom training sessions, or shorter ‘tool box talks’ (5-10 minute briefings that usually occur on-site prior to the start of a shift).
You also need to check whether you drivers are fit to drive. This includes ensuring that drivers are in good health, but also that their skills and safety-related driving knowledge are at an appropriate level. Training is legally required for HGV drivers (requiring 35 hours of training over a 5-year period), but training should not be limited to this group of drivers. You are still required to ensure that all drivers are competent, and while there is no specifically-mandated training for van drivers or grey fleet drivers, you still have a duty of care to ensure their safety. Training is important to rectify bad habits that have developed over time, or to refresh those driving skills which are used less frequently as they can fade over time. Furthermore, drivers may need education regarding periodic changes to the Highway Code, or in how to use new Advanced Driver Assistance Systems. Importantly, all training should be recorded for each individual driver, with a planned schedule of both initial and regular refresher training.
There are several ways that companies can tackle this duty of care for their drivers. This can range from on-road assessment and training, online risk assessments and subsequent e-learning modules, and classroom-based training. In more recent times, many fleets are choosing remote solutions such as online driver profiling and training to assess driver competence, benefitting from the ease of administration and relatively low cost compared to face-to-face training and assessment. Nonetheless, we recommend that the personal touch is still important for those drivers who you find to be at greatest risk of a collision.
No fleet risk management plan is complete without the buy-in and support from management. A knowledgeable, experienced, and proactive fleet manager should go a long way to reducing fleet risk. They will be able to understand the risk and develop custom solutions to meet the needs of the business. This can be achieved by ensuring that all the correct policies are in place and that they are reviewed on a regular basis. There should also be an emphasis on making sure that key responsibilities for health and safety are clearly understood so that there is an understanding of ‘who does what’. Lines of communication should be put into place so that there is a clear and simple incident-reporting procedure to identify issues as early as possible and prevent more serious ones.
Even the most safety-conscious fleet manager will be stymied if senior management are not seen to play by the same rules. All managers should set an example through their own behaviour, and operational processes should be reviewed to ensure compliance with policies. For instance, many companies have banned hands-free phone calls while driving for work (which is strongly supported by research evidence which shows that hands-free calls can be as distracting as hand-held calls). However, some managers and supervisors may believe that operational needs outweigh the safety imperative, and still call drivers while they on the road. This sends a mixed message to drivers and ultimately undermines safety policies.
Towards a safer fleet
We appreciate that all the above can sound daunting, however, there is a lot of advice out there to support fleet risk management and compliance, and there are many pieces of software that can automate most of the required processes. Certainly, ensuring the compliance of your vehicles and harmonising your operations with your safety policies can be straightforward. Ensuring that you have safe drivers however is more of a minefield.
Helping fleets identify risk in their drivers and providing solutions to mitigate that risk is the bedrock of what we do at Esitu Solutions. We know that over 90% of all collisions are the result of human error and being able to identify these potential risks in drivers is imperative to running a safer fleet. Through online assessment and virtual reality, Esitu Solutions provides scientifically-validated driver risk assessments and training modules tailored to your organisation. Our primary aim is to help you reduce the human and financial costs of collisions, by making your fleet safer. Our products have even led to insurance savings for clients, and we can do the same for you.
If you want to improve the safety of your drivers, please get in touch for a no-obligation chat.