Safety has become integral to Balfour Beatty and synonymous with Balfour Beatty Plant and Fleet Services.
Its Zero Harm initiative (which earned it the fleet operator initiative award at the 2011 Fleet News Awards) and 2020 Sustainability Vision – carbon neutrality within five years – have both become central to its worldwide operations.
And, as the UK fleet arm to this global business, these core values are no less important to Balfour Beatty Plant and Fleet Services.
They drive the company to make sure having a safe fleet, not only in terms of the vehicles it operates but also the people that drive them and the journeys they make, are critical to everything it does.
No stone has been left unturned in its quest to keep its drivers safe from harm, working strategically and innovatively to achieve its goals.
But what one thing would it advise another fleet to do to improve its road risk record? Robert Lindsay, road risk manager at Balfour Beatty Plant and Fleet Services, says: “Use all the data you have at your disposal.
“Companies now can have an enormous amount of data available for their fleet and their driver population, but this is only valuable if it is put to good use.”
It is not unusual for companies to have multiple streams of data they can associate with their business drivers. Potential data streams can include previous incidents, damage and misuse, licence endorsements, driver behaviour through telematics, risk assessment outputs and fuel usage.
Lindsay says: “For us, these are all risk and performance indicators that make up a holistic picture of a driver.”
However, he warns: “If these data streams are reviewed in isolation or, worse, left redundant in unopened spreadsheets, then an opportunity is being missed to better understand fleet risk and, with it, the ability to intervene most effectively.”
Operating a fleet of more than 4,600 cars and 2,600 vans, Balfour Beatty Plant and Fleet Services’ long-term strategy for reducing fleet incidents has paid enormous dividends.
It has saved the company millions of pounds, with driver profiling, telematics and driving simulators all playing their part. And it saw the company crowned safe fleet of the year at this year’s Fleet News Awards.
However, it is its use of data which has built the foundations for its success by enabling it to take a targeted approach and constantly reassess its performance. It’s one that Lindsay believes other fleets should employ.
Fleet News: If a company wants to tackle road risk by better use of its data, where should it start?
Robert Lindsay: It’s not always straightforward, as different individuals or departments can be responsible for different outputs, but we would recommend finding a sustainable method for collating the various streams, normalising the data and then managing by exception over time. Remember also to use the data at both ends of the spectrum. For example, the worst performing or highest risk drivers may require line manager conversations, targeted driver training or perhaps even disciplinary action, whereas the best performing, or lowest risk, drivers should receive positive reinforcement, perhaps through line manager recognition or driver of the month/year awards. It is also important to recognise that, in all cases, the quality of the intervention is as important as the initial analysis.
FN: How has telematics helped improve driver performance?
RL: Vehicle telematics has served as a great tool for us and is a significant part of our wider driver risk management programme.
Where RTI frequency rates are a lagging performance indicator for us, telematics offers a set of leading indicators that we can respond to and influence over time to reduce incidents.
Telematics is used for a variety of purposes across different levels of the organisation, including client KPI reporting, fleet efficiency programmes and as a driver risk indicator.
But we also do a lot of work with the data centrally, producing dashboard reports and league tables both within and between the numerous business units across the group, stimulating competition and deriving improvements. We also use vehicle telematics to measure the success of our training and coaching interventions.
For us, it’s another example of closed-loop management – telematics first forms part of the suite of risk indication tools, and then we use it to see how effectively we’ve mitigated the risks we identified post-intervention.
FN: With so many telematics systems available how did you decide which one was best for your fleet?
RL: Due to the complex nature of our fleet and the different uses for the data I’ve referenced, selecting our telematics partner wasn’t easy and was the result of a long tender process. In the end, Masternaut won the contract award, demonstrating that it was best placed to support our requirements – which includes everything from rich tracking and driver behaviour through to fuel card integration and advanced gritter reporting.
FN: Monitoring grey fleet drivers can be a challenge for fleets in the public and private sectors, what’s your approach to both grey fleet vehicles and drivers?
RL: We operate a grey fleet policy which has a clearly defined eligibility criteria and incorporates a set of standards around vehicles to be used under the policy. We also manage the grey fleet through our permit to drive programme, whereby drivers in this group must complete an additional module and extra checks are carried out such as a business insurance check before permission to drive on business is granted, through issuance of a permit card.
FN: Do you undertake risk assessments for every driver or just selected drivers? If selected, what are the criteria?
RL: The permit to drive programme includes a psychometric online risk assessment element which forms part of enrolment. This process is repeated every three years.
However, it is a dynamic process in that we use the constant flow of data we are gathering as a business to inform our risk profile and respond accordingly to mitigate.
Essentially, it’s an ongoing and constantly evolving driver benchmarking system. For example, identifying new licence endorsements or patterns of speeding through telematics are indicators of increased crash risk, so we manage this proactively by introducing an in-house on-road coaching session or a speed awareness course, depending on the circumstances. The key to this is to have clearly defined processes – ideally stored on an intuitive BMS – that support managers in making the right decisions and interventions with their drivers.
FN: What’s next on the horizon for Balfour Beatty Plant and Fleet Services, to maintain the safe performance of its fleet?
RL: We are constantly looking at ways to innovate and find new methods for further embedding a safe culture of driving across our businesses. Thankfully our strategy was always to build a programme to last when it came to fleet and driver safety, so we have the infrastructure in place to continue to develop this area.
Our programme is completely scalable and we are targeting a number of tweaks and improvements, without making wholesale changes to the way we operate or shifting our focus.
As an example, we are currently working on the integration of our on-board weighing technology, with our telematics system, so that we can report on incidents and use this as another leading indicator that helps us ensure we stay compliant in this area, and show us where we may need to focus our efforts in terms of education around the risks of overloading.