“Fuel efficient and safe driving become a fund-amental reflection of the organisation’s performance, with organisations and managers within them understanding the important balance between sales and safety.”
Murray says: “Coaching, involvement, understanding the risks and engaging people to do their best are all important.
“Ensuring drivers have an appropriate level of experience, a solid contract of employment, an appropriate (and clean) licence supported by relevant qualifications are all important.
“Support this with clear work instructions and an easy to read and comply with driver handbook, enforced by risk assessment and relevant training.
“Engagement and encouragement, supported by appropriate equipment, are all important, as is communication to ensure that drivers understand exactly what is required of them.
"Good employers also think about the health and well-being of their drivers and have effective monitoring in place supported by corrective action if things do go wrong for some reason."
Promoting a safer driving culture
If driver training on its own doesn’t work, it’s time to turn to hi-tech devices offered by telematics firms such as Trimble.
Mark Forrest, managing director of Trimble’s Field Service Management (FSM) division, says: “Promoting a safe driving culture is essential. A safe driver is a cost-effective driver.
"They have fewer accidents, they are more productive and they tend to drive more efficiently, reducing the fuel bill.
“Driver safety solutions enable managers to monitor driving behaviour and complete back office analysis of aggressive manoeuvres, such as hard acceleration, braking, turns and speed.
"With this data at hand, recommendations on training can be made for individual drivers, resulting in lower accidents and liability therefore helping to manage the risks and costs associated with work-related driving.”
One company which has just launched into this area is bolt-on hybrid systems expert Ashwoods Automotive.
Gary Whittam, Ashwoods director of business strategy, says: “The single biggest influence on a van’s fuel consumption is the driver and in particular how the vehicle controls are operated.
Typically it can impact fuel economy by as much as 35%. I have looked at the various means to gain sustainable improvements.
“The ‘stick’ approach – where the worst performing drivers receive the undivided attention of the fleet manager and disciplinary actions are used to effect change – can be effective in the short term and for a relatively small proportion of the workforce.
"The worst performing drivers (the bottom 10%) are often reluctant to accept training and coaching and any improvement is often short lived.
“The largest proportion of the workforce are in the middle ground. This group generally wants to do a good job, has a good work ethic and receives coaching well. It responds to the ‘carrot’ approach.
“Helping this group understand how it can improve vehicle efficiency is valuable. The most successful approach is one where a relationship is built with the driver.”
Whittam points out that at the top of any group/workforce is a small group who actively seek to be best, quickest, most efficient etc. It responds well to the ‘carrot’ but in many cases that can simply be an award of the ‘driver of the year’.
He said: “Van drivers are largely misunderstood and tend to be type cast using the ‘white van’ syndrome.
In reality the vast majority are hard working, hard worked and try their best to do a good job in a tough environment.
“It is far better to involve them in the objectives of the business – be that fuel cost reduction, accident prevention etc and then work together sharing the rewards.
"The ‘stick’ should only be used on those where other means have failed.”