Fleet News

Fleet and drivers: Getting the message across to drivers is key to policy success

How important is effective communication to the operation of a fleet? “Vastly,” says Peter Eldridge, director of the Institute of Car Fleet Management. “If people don’t buy in to something, then it doesn’t matter how good it is, it’s never going to happen.”

Failure to communicate properly can undermine policies and initiatives, but get it right and fleets will reap the rewards: initiatives, whether safety, cost saving or duty of care, are much more likely to succeed.

“Driver engagement, in my experience, is one of the biggest issues faced by companies,” says Geoffrey Bray, chairman of the Fleet Industry Advisory Group.

“Too often there is an assumption that all an organisation has to do is issue a company car or van handbook and drivers will read it and know exactly what they should be doing.

“That is simply not the case. Over a 50-year career in fleet I’ve seen, and continue to see, how vehicle-related problems have occurred simply because fleet decision-makers have failed to communicate properly with drivers. That then has a direct impact on business efficiency and fleet costs.”

Bray feels that with the technology available today there is no excuse not to have an interactive driver communications strategy that will enhance the efficiency of the fleet.

This strategy should include a multitude of different mediums such as intranet and email, as well as more traditional ways of communicating such as meetings and posters.

“The best companies we work with use all of the mediums,” says Will Murray, research director of eDriving Fleet.

“They also realise that communication is not a one-off event where you say ‘here’s the vehicle’ and then you’ve done your job. It has to be an ongoing process.”

Murray says it is important to make sure the communication is targeted and relevant.

“Recently, one of our clients identified through DVLA licence checks that speeding was an issue with its drivers, so it was able to distribute information and online training on that,” he says. “Before Christmas it also identified bad weather and winter driving as a risk, so everyone received online coaching on this.

“Another company has taken on a lot of young apprentices, so it has got an increasing issue with younger drivers and it has been focusing on them through face-to-face meetings, workshops and online coaching.”

Identifying drivers to target can be done in a variety of ways, says Murray. “It could come from an online risk assessment, or analysing claims data, licence check data or HR data,” he adds. “It might even come from the demographic profile of employees: there’s a whole load of different ways to target.”

Once a fleet operator has identified its message and who it wants to communicate it to, the next step is to consider how it should get that message to them.

“In one business, something like a poster campaign on the company noticeboard could work well, but in a transportation business where people don’t really commune in any one area, that won’t work at all,” says Eldridge.

“So finding the right method of communication for your business is vital: there is no one approach that will suit every company.”

Different communication strategies may also be adopted, depending on the nature of the fleet.

For example, with a user-chooser fleet where the company car is seen as a key employee recruitment and retention tool, it may be important to work closely with the HR department to devise and communicate strategy and subsequent policy decisions, says John Pryor, chairman of fleet operators’ association ACFO.

“The communications strategy adopted may also be dependent on the seniority of the fleet decision-maker in the business and their level of industry knowledge and experience,” he says.

“For example, a relatively inexperienced and junior employee may feel that they have to communicate frequently with their managers on all decisions, whereas an experienced full-time professional fleet manager may feel that sending out a memo may be enough for all but the most important policy changes.”

The effectiveness of any communication can also be improved by striking the right chord with its recipients, according to Nick Webb, fleet manager of Miller’s Vanguard.

“It would be brilliant for all fleet managers that if you send one email or bulletin to drivers it has the impact you want, but it doesn’t,” he adds.

“It’s more of a drip-drip effect; it has to be gradual. I may send the same message out four times, but I’ll send it out differently for different people, because not everybody reacts to the same story in the same way.”

Miller’s Vanguard’s headquarters is in a 20mph zone, with a school nearby.

“The road is also the main rat-run for people to get to the motorway, so it was obvious to send out a bulletin saying it’s a 20mph zone for a reason,” says Webb.

When he first did that, he wanted the message to be hard-hitting, so used a poster of a child’s face which at that time formed part of a national campaign.

“It was half-child, half-skull and that got the impact I was looking for,” adds Webb. “The next email equated the impact speed to falling from a height. So in other words, if you hit somebody at 20mph, it’s the same as falling from the second-storey of a building.

“We did that because people may not be very good at equating distance but they can visualise the height of the second, third or fourth storey of a building. It’s all about trying to understand how other people think. Different people think differently. If someone has a young family, you can equate it to them taking their child to school, and a driver hitting them at 30mph.

“They think differently to a single guy who is in his 20s and doesn’t have kids. However, he can look up at a building and think ‘if I fall down from that height…’.”

As well as tailoring messages to appeal to different groups of employees, fleets can also use seasonal or topical issues to keep employees interested.

“There is a danger that you can do too much and people will stop taking notice of what you are saying,” says Murray.

“You can avoid this by having some kind of rolling programme which can be used to get messages across at appropriate times.”

 

Sample 12-month fleet safety communications programme

MONTH

NATIONAL ROAD SAFETY ISSUE

COMPANY TOP 10 ISSUES

January

Fatigue

Why work-related road safety is important

February

Driving in snow

Programme launch/pledge/declaration

March

Mobile phones

Slow-speed manoeuvring

April

Seatbelts

Rear-end collisions

May

Drugs and driving

Hit while parked incidents

June

Summer driving

Incident reporting

July

Young driver road safety

Family member safety

August

Speed

Incident costs

September

Holiday driving/child restraints

Time of day incidents

October

Flexible topic

Theft and vandalism

November

Winter driving

Higher speed incidents

December

Drink-driving

Glass and windscreen damage



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