ompanies need to understand that there is a link between the time of year and road safety, says Will Murray, research director at risk management provider Interactive Driving Systems.
“There is definitely a seasonal pattern in most organisations’ claims data,” he says. “Typically there are more collisions in winter due to the weather, darker nights and seasonal peaks building up to Christmas. But it does depend on the sector. A company selling ice creams, for example, may see its peak periods in the summer.”
Interactive Driving Systems has been analysing BT’s insurance claims data for more than a decade.
Although its claims have halved during that time, bad weather, such as snow, ice and storms, brings spikes in its data. The most recent spike represents the impact of this year’s floods.
“Predicting the weather and then acting on it is very complex and difficult,” says Murray.
“Typically, many interventions come too late. Organisations should be planning their winter driving campaigns now.”
Interactive Driving Systems, as part of its Virtual Risk Manager system, has developed an online coaching module specifically about bad weather.
Clients such as Asda Home Shopping and Nestlé roll out this type of coaching to all their drivers in August and September in preparation for the winter.
Companies also use it as a reactive tool. “If someone has a collision where it is obvious it is because of the weather, the company might decide to turn on that module specifically for that driver,” Murray says.
Fifty-four companies have completed the bad weather module in the past 18 months – the majority from the UK.
But managing weather-related road safety is not just about driver coaching. There are management decisions to be made – is it possible to cancel the journey?
“A couple of years ago, one logistics company I know delayed pulling its vehicles off the road by one hour for operational reasons,” recalls Murray. “In that hour it lost six trucks that turned over in the wind.”
For some companies, cancelling a journey is not an easy decision to make.
“The issue that BT has is that when the weather is particularly bad, more of its customers work from home and need their broadband,” says Murray.
But when the weather is bad, there are likely to be issues with telecommunications.
“So although BT prepares for the weather and does suspend operations and makes a plan, it has to keep operating as much as it can.”
Companies also need to consider whether their vehicles are the correct ones for the job.
It’s about taking a holistic approach to road safety, according to Murray, not simply looking at driver behaviour.
“Driver behaviour is really important, but you also need to look at journey management, minimising the need to travel, alternatives to using a vehicle, site and route risk assessment – where people are having collisions at the same places – and whether it’s the wrong vehicle for the job,” he says.
“It’s all well and good to train drivers, but if they keep being put into risky situations by the management process, no amount of training is going to make that much difference.”
Interactive Driving Systems’s aim is to help make companies’ systems “as safe and robust as possible”, with the overarching aim of “getting everyone home safely every day”.
The company takes a data-led approach to road safety and risk management. Its Virtual Risk Manager system feeds data from a range of sources, such as driver risk assessments or coaching, insurance claims, fines, telemetry, DVLA licence checks, tyres and vehicle damage, into a data warehouse so companies can see “the whole picture”.
“There are still a lot of myths in road safety,” Murray says. “The more research-based and the more rational decision making can be, the better.”
Virtual Risk Manager includes online tools such as a bespoke questionnaire to check that drivers understand the company’s driving at work policies, risk assessments and driver profiling, as well driver coaching modules.
“If someone keeps having rear-end collisions, they will take a Risk Coach module on that,” explains Murray. “There are about 20 online coaching modules which score drivers to make sure they understand the material.”
Organisations can choose which products and services to take. Some opt for DVLA licence checking or a basic risk assessment, others choose risk assessments, data warehousing and online modules. There is a fee per user, which varies depending on the services the company takes.
“We tend to work on a conservative 5% per annum saving, depending on how good the organisation is in terms of road safety in the first place,” Murray says.
“We help clients to develop a detailed cost and return on investment model.”
Aside from cost savings, there are benefits around compliance, corporate social responsibility and the company’s brand and reputation.
Interactive Driving Systems works with more than 400 companies in the UK – directly or as a third-party supplier for leasing, insurance and driver training providers.
“We have got clients from as small as five vehicles or drivers up to the likes of BT and Royal Mail that have 60,000-70,000 people on our system,” Murray says.
“For the really big fleets, data-driven processes are important because it helps them to be systematic.
“Our direct clients all tend to be very safety conscious, they just need some support to manage their road risk.”
Murray’s role includes looking at data integration, as well as data analysis and evaluation.
He attends clients’ fleet safety steering committee meetings to share good practice and review data, as well as holding benchmarking sessions with customers.
Murray is also looking at telemetry and the most effective way to use it from a driver behaviour point of view.
“Our future plans are to continue to grow globally,” he says.
The company originated in the UK more than 20 years ago but expanded to America when CEO Ed Dubens was asked by Zurich to share the work being done in the UK with its American clients. It now has an office in New Jersey as well as Mexico, Brazil and Brussels.
“The company has grown significantly every year for the past 10 years, in the UK and globally,” says Murray.