Fleet News

Driver management is more than a tick box exercise

This month we focus again on the results from Driving for Better Business’s online risk assessment and its all-round driver management processes. An average user score of 60% compares with a target score of around 75-80% so many employers who have taken this assessment still have some way to go.

We’re going to start with what you would think would be an easy challenge – knowing how many drivers you have.

Sound simple? It should be, yet only 71% answered “yes” they do know how many drivers they have so 29%, almost a third, currently don’t.

If each company vehicle is assigned to a single driver then it probably is relatively easy, but what if the vehicle is used for multiple shifts with, say, a number of drivers having access to the same van?

Or a really common problem, do you have any idea how big your grey fleet is? How many of your staff are making occasional work journeys in their own cars? 

The reason this question is so important is that if you aren’t certain you know how many of your employees are driving on business, you can’t possibly have a robust audit trail to demonstrate that they are being managed effectively. 

You can’t know that all of them have seen your ‘driving at work’ policy and you can’t be certain they have had their licences checked and are therefore eligible to drive on business.

When asked how many checked licences directly with DVLA, the answer was again 71% – likely to be largely the same 71% that are confident they know how many drivers they have.

As most will know, checking licences highlights a number of potential issues for drivers including eligibility to drive different types of vehicles as well as potential health issues.

Surprisingly, only 50% of respondents check to see whether the licence check data highlights any medical issues that may affect their driving, meaning a significant proportion of those investing in licence checking data are probably only using it for a cursory check on penalty points.

This is particularly important in the aftermath of the Glasgow bin lorry incident. The driver, who killed six and injured a further 15 in December 2014, had deliberately concealed relevant information from the DVLA about his medical history. Health problems dating back almost 40 years included blackouts, dizzy spells, heart problems, vertigo and tension headaches. 

Imagine if he had declared all of this to DVLA and it had been highlighted in his licence check data. But nobody had noticed or even bothered to check beyond seeing how many points he had. Can you be sure that nobody like that is hiding in your data?

Allied to this are eyesight checks. Licence check data will highlight whether a driver needs to wear glasses or contact lenses. However, only 32% of firms confirmed they check their drivers meet the Highway Code’s eyesight requirements every two years. Even adding in the ones who say they are working towards this policy only gets us to 49%.

When we start looking at driver performance, the results are similarly poor with only half of the respondents taking the actions they need to manage their drivers effectively.

Only 38% of firms formally evaluate driver competency before allowing them to drive on business with a further 14% working towards this. This would be a shockingly dangerous figure were it involving staff operating machinery in a factory or working in a hazardous industry so why should it be any different when asking staff to drive for work.

At a recent Driving for Better Business summit at the Houses of Parliament, Mark Phillips – chief executive of the Rail Safety and Standards Board – highlighted the fact that “since 2007 there have been 18 workforce fatalities in the rail industry but nine of those – 50% – are the result of work-related road traffic accidents” showing that even in a dangerous environment like rail, work-related driving is one of the biggest risks faced by staff. 

Checking and monitoring driver competence is essential.

This picture continues with the follow-on questions. A little more than half (54%) of firms have a process to address poor driving once it has been identified and 57% of firms conduct post-collision interviews to find out what happened, whether any lessons can be learnt, and whether the driver is actually okay to continue in their role.

Post-collision interviews by a trained person are  vital, given that a driver who has been involved in a incident, especially a serious one, may be left with serious confidence issues and require some sympathetic on-road assessment and coaching at the very least, and possibly some in-depth counselling to overcome their experience.

Last month, we noted how a pretty good indicator of strong management was the driver safety handbook. Most companies where management fully understood their responsibilities, and where a genuine culture of safe driving has been established, have driver handbooks. Good managers see it as an essential way of ensuring drivers understand what is expected of them. We also said that all the best-run fleets have driver handbooks and regular driver communications – this includes regular safety updates.

With 52% of firms confirming that they provide regular safety communication to drivers, it is no surprise that this figure is similar to how many firms address poor driving and provide post collision interviews. Done well, it is a clear indicator of a company whose policies are there for the right reasons, not just box ticking, and that cares whether those policies are followed or not.

Lastly, let’s look at the issue of mobile phone use while driving as the data from our online risk assessment is rather interesting. 

Many companies still continue to allow hands-free mobile phone use while driving on company business. This is one of the thorniest of thorny issues when addressing driver management because, of course, it is legal to drive while speaking on a hands-free device. However, we all know there are still distraction issues regardless of whether the phone is being held or not.

One of the key challenges for drivers who don’t wish to use their phone while driving can be the feeling that managers expect them to be available at all times, including while driving.

Additionally, there is a commonly held belief that banning phone use will harm the business and reduce productivity therefore it must be allowed for the business to survive.

The data shows that 46% of respondents had actually banned all mobile phone use outright while driving and did not expect their drivers to either answer or make calls. Furthermore, an additional 15% were actively working towards a ban leaving just 38% who still allowed the practice.

This shows a clear majority of firms are now banning, or working towards banning, all mobile phone use while driving and this trend is likely to strengthen further over the next few years.

As with the fleet safety policies discussed last month, the companies who perform best at driver management are those that have genuinely strong and clear leadership. They understand what is required and they lead by example, communicating those requirements effectively to their drivers and monitoring performance to ensure that standards are maintained.


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