Fleet News

‘Driving is most dangerous thing staff do every day’

Fleet managers have been grappling with the best way to identify high-risk drivers and subsequently tackle that risk.

There was agreement from Fleet News Awards finalists who attended a recent roundtable, sponsored by Škoda, that driving is one of the most dangerous things an employee does and that the fleet manager has an important part to play in improving driver safety.

Several larger fleets have decided to go beyond an online risk assessment and on-road training by developing a range of sophisticated tools to identify and profile drivers.

How do you identify driver risk?

Ted Sakyi: In my previous role at Transport for London (TfL) we did licence checks and online risk assessments. But what does the online risk assessment actually tell you? It gives us some kind of indicator, but is it everything? No. So I employed an ex-police officer. We worked closely with our telematics company and came up with a radio frequency card which was personalised to the individual. As soon as they sat in the driver’s seat, that vehicle would register them and without that registration it wouldn’t start. The reason we did that was to understand how people were driving when we couldn’t see them. It was almost impossible to tell who was driving a vehicle, so the radio frequency card allowed us to understand who the key offenders were. But we were not using it to beat people up, we were using it to identify people’s behaviours and the risk they had to themselves, the general public and, ultimately, the company.

Ravi Jain: We’re going through that process with RFID tags with our company vans. You will have a group of five people that work out of a vehicle so in any given day it could be any one of those five people who is driving the vehicle. Through normal use of telematics you can tell what the vehicle is doing but you don’t necessarily know what the driver is doing.

Doing it at the driver level, rather than the vehicle level, has made a massive difference for us. The typical conversation we’re having with our drivers is “how can we make you safer?”. Especially if you’ve got five people in a vehicle. If you’re driving a vehicle you only think about yourself but if you’re a driver in a vehicle with four other people that’s five people you’re responsible for.

Driving is dangerous. We’re in a building material industry; we use live explosives – and we say that, after our quarries, the road network is our most dangerous working environment.

John Gorton: We’ve got police officers who are firearms trained, we’ve got riot officers, the whole spectrum, and we all agree that driving is the most dangerous thing a police officer does on a day-to-day basis.

Who are your high-risk drivers?

Jon York: We have a large number of engineers under 25 years old. I looked at some statistics in 2013 and a significant number of them had experienced a crash in that year. That was really powerful information to get the board and the trade union signed on to doing something different for the young drivers. We now have a Young Driver Academy. There is an induction and then there are six two-hour visits over a 12-month period. They are with a trainer in the vehicle. Currently, there are about 450 engineers that have completed the programme or are going through the 12 months. Every visit they have there is a form that is filled out that covers all the elements we are looking at and they are set a target.

There are comments from the instructor, from the candidate and me. We get bodies looking at the portfolio, it has to be evidenced that the candidates are getting some benefit. I am delighted with the feedback we’re getting. One comment was: “I’m learning skills I never knew before.”  It’s a lot of work, but it’s worthwhile.

Sam McIndoe: We don’t have a Young Driver Academy, but I always put the young drivers we get through training. I use the Blue Lamp Trust for an in-van session. Most of its trainers are ex-police officers and the training is top quality.

What training do you give drivers over 25?

Jon York: When they join they have to go through a full day induction, so we assess their driving on drive one. We then give them coaching and guidance, classroom workshops, and take them out for a second drive. They have to pass the whole induction before they get any keys. In addition to that, we have a driver risk management system which we have developed so anything to do with that vehicle gets uploaded into that and we have a red, amber, green system. Any reds go to a safety review and they get additional driver training.

Carl Hanson: We do something very similar to British Gas, we give employees ‘a licence to drive’, we call it a ‘permit to drive’. From a consequence perspective, we could take it away from them, although I don’t think we’ve ever had to. It helps us from a classification point of view. It’s about teaching people how to drive in the environment they are going to drive. We’ve found it helps from a cost saving and maintenance point of view, too. If someone is not used to towing a trailer, taking off on an incline with a manual gearbox is going to wreck a gearbox.

How do you overcome any driver resistance to training?

John Gorton: It’s interesting how hesitant people are to take additional training. It’s actually a skill for life. It keeps yourself, your family and other people safe. People don’t like doing it because they don’t like to be tested. One of the things we say is “this is something you can take advantage of in your home life as well”.

Justin Wand: Working with Cranfield University, we’ve developed a national ambulance driver risk indexing tool. That has helped us go back to some of our drivers and look at the benefit of remedial training. There is not a lot of evidence that says just sending them back to driving school does them any good. People know how to drive; there are other reasons . So are they distracted? Are they fatigued? Are they natural thrill seekers? Are they time-pressured?

Ted Sakyi: Implementing this radio frequency card, from an HR point of view, can monitor people’s hours of work and their line managers have access to that information so HR can question why he is doing 60 hours. If we haven’t got the staffing levels we need to look at that.

Ravi Jain: We’re saying to our drivers if they feel they’re under pressure, if they’re being asked to drive three or four hours to get to an 8 o’clock meeting, that prime time when they’re most likely to have an accident in a given day, they should use this information to say: “Well, actually I don’t think that’s responsible. I can make it for the meeting by 10 o’clock if it’s an all day meeting or I should be stopping overnight.” It’s enabling our drivers. This shouldn’t all be line management coming down, it should be drivers going back up.


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