All fleet managers know the importance of fleet safety and how it can make or break a company no matter what other pressures it may be experiencing. The Covid-19 pandemic presented a number of issues that fleets had not necessarily experienced before, adding pressure to various roles in order to make the fleet effective. The Association of Fleet Professionals (AFP) noted that the rise of home working in the wake of the coronavirus crisis created issues for fleets when it came to classifying journeys and problems that revolved around whether an employee’s home was officially their place of work. i
Furthermore, the fleet industry is facing longer lead times for new cars and vans as manufacturers struggle to cope with the global semiconductor shortage.ii As shortages continue, it will impact vehicle production well into 2023, meaning that end-user fleets could find it difficult to keep up with business demands with a lack of additional vehicles available.
Despite these ongoing issues fleet managers need to always keep front of mind the fact that accidents can impact the bottom line of the fleet. Although there are now a number of other factors to consider, an effective fleet safety programme is essential to protecting drivers, improving business reputation, boosting morale and also saving money. The programme cannot be a case of “set it and forget it” as it needs the same level of care and attention given to vehicle maintenance.
Here are the essential elements of an effective fleet safety programme. If one or more element is missing, some fleets may be falling short.
A clear, written safety policy
Drivers can’t follow policies they don’t know about. A written fleet safety policy should cover not just the basics but every aspect of the operation. It needs to clarify the responsibilities of executives, supervisors and employees and provide guidelines for daily operations as well as procedures to be followed in the event of an accident or other incident. All policies should be reviewed at least annually and revised to address new regulations or circumstances.
Comprehensive and continuous driver training
Safety training starts with employee intake and ideally, never stops. Regular coaching can break unsafe driving habits such as speeding, harsh braking and tailgating. Continuous driver coaching should be thought of as a preventive maintenance of fleet safety.
Vehicle telematics data can help fleet managers to understand where any potential issues lie so that they can proactively address them. Giving drivers access to their own vehicle telematics data can also go one step further in helping them to review these patterns for themselves and improve on where they take unnecessary risks that could pose a threat to their safety.
Frequent safety messaging
Ensuring new drivers have read the fleet safety policies is just the first step in informing them of what’s expected. Safety must be kept top of mind with ongoing messaging and through the use of meetings, emails and newsletters to highlight the value of specific safety practices and to offer specific tips and reminders.
A distracted driving programme
Road accident data suggests that in 2019, ‘distraction in vehicle’ contributed to 2,563 accidents (3% of all reported road accidents) and ‘distraction outside vehicle’ contributed to a further 1,078 accidents (1% of all reported road accidents)iii Setting a no phone/no texting policy is crucial for fleet drivers. Introducing innovative telematics programmes with Driver Behaviour Scores and video intelligence provides invaluable information to help managers monitor this safety element.
In the heat of a crash, memory becomes unreliable. Telematics data delivers useful information about the event. Better still, a fully integrated video telematics solution can provide trigger-based video footage of the critical seconds before, during and after impact. Accurate situational details help companies understand the root cause of the accident. Rapid access to video capture and crash data streamlines accident investigations and can help insurance investigators determine liability — and exonerate drivers who are not at fault.
A preventive maintenance plan
Well-maintained vehicles are safer vehicles, and reducing unscheduled repairs is better for the bottom line. Typically, commercial vehicles are written off following a road traffic accident if repair costs are in excess of 60% of the vehicle’s value, and the growing cost of parts makes this more of a reality for fleet managers to contend with.iv More sophisticated systems, such a telematics platform, can provide a dashboard for tracking maintenance needs and scheduling inspections which keeps services costs down and vehicles moving.