Benchmarking your fleet’s processes and collision rates to other companies can have far-reaching effects on safety and costs.
Benchmarking is not a new concept in fleet: operators have been using it for years to reduce costs and maximise efficiencies.
Less common, however, is the use of it to cut road risk, but those organisations that do can reap significant benefits.
For example, eDriving Fleet (formerly Interactive Driving Systems) says that the 12 organisations most active in its fleet safety gap analysis programme, representing 170,000 drivers and 80,000 vehicles, have saved more than £11 million in direct cost reductions over three years.
“These are some pretty significant results in terms of cost and collision rates, so if you do benchmarking well there are some opportunities in it,” says Will Murray, research director at eDriving Fleet.
“Typically, when people talk about benchmarking fleet safety, they talk about collisions, but it is important to focus on process as well.
“Collision numbers are important, but if you focus only on these figures then some people tend to cheat and do everything they can to make the numbers look better, sometimes without actually improving the process.”
He said this can happen when fleets do not record certain incidents as ‘collisions’, meaning they do not appear in their reports.
While, on paper, this can make it seem like a fleet has a low incident rate, it often means the causes of collisions are not identified or addressed.
“We think fleets should class everything as a collision but some people don’t,” says Murray.
“Essentially, the better you count things, the higher your collision rate will look. But if you don’t count everything you are missing the opportunity to address any problems.”
Iron Mountain records every single vehicle incident, including stone chips, in its benchmarking process and has found that 60% of them are low-speed reversing incidents.
This trend analysis led Rory Morgan, head of logistics support, Western Europe at Iron Mountain, to make reducing the number of low-speed reversing incidents his priority for 2016.
“Through benchmarking, if you can see the categories where incidents happen – low-speed reversing, car parks, at-fault etc. – and compare your record with similar and different fleets, then you have an idea of what best practice looks like and an action plan can be implemented,” he says.
“Other companies must be suffering similar incidents and some may have implemented solutions to solve the problem.
“Benchmarking promotes discussion and investigation, and the sharing of best practice.”
It is this collaboration between fleet operators which has helped BT Group reduce its collision rate among its 22,000-strong fleet of vans by 50% in the past 15 years, leading to savings of £14 million a year. This is equivalent to an extra turnover of £100m.
“Nobody knows what all the answers are in this space, so talking to people who are practitioners and work with this stuff on a day-to-day basis is probably your best source of information,” says Dave Wallington, head of safety at BT Group. “Things like the Health and Safety Executive guidance are all well and good, but they are highly theoretical and difficult to apply in the real world, so getting a group of practitioners together to argue about what is the best approach is often the best solution.”
This altruism is very important to helping reduce risk, says Wallington. “My view is that if you want anything from me, or you want a copy of anything we’ve done, then you can have it,” he says. “None of it is commercially sensitive information, and BT’s position is that if it is going to help people stay safe, then we’ll share it.
“In my experience, almost everybody is like that. So don’t be afraid to approach other companies and ask for more information. Nine times out of 10 they will be happy to help.”
He adds: “If you can find somebody who has got a good idea, borrow it. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel.
“If someone knows how to fix a problem, then fix it. Benchmarking is a great tool to find out how to improve things.”
Data created through benchmarking can also raise awareness of road risk within a company and achieve buy-in to initiatives from senior management.
“Data is very helpful in an organisation like mine,” says Wallington. “You don’t get to be chief executive of BT without being ambitious and wanting to be better than everyone else, so proving to him that he’s not better than everyone else is quite a good motivator at times.
“Benchmarking data does help you get road risk on the agenda and that’s really valuable, but if you know you are behind in terms of performance, that’s an opportunity and it opens your eyes to things that you should be focusing on.”
Organisations such as insurer Zurich also offer their own gap analysis tools, and it, together with eDriving Fleet and a range of other fleet-related organisations such as FTA Van Excellence and Rospa, have collaborated with Occupational Road Safety Alliance to launch a Fleet Safety Benchmarking tool.
Backed by the Department for Transport, the free tool – found at fleetsafetybenchmarking.net - is an enhancement of eDriving Fleet’s Fleet Safety Gap Analysis and uses 30 questions to examine an employer’s current practices across six key areas (see panel page 35 for examples of sample questions).
“It takes about 20 minutes and gives you immediate feedback on both your processes and outcomes, and benchmarks you against everybody else who has put data in,” says Murray.
Completing the survey produces an instant report which provides question-by-question responses and feedback, including questions scored and reported against averages determined from other users’ information, data tables and graphs.
Data analysis will provide information on collision rates per vehicle and per one million kilometres driven, as well as by vehicle and incident type and location.
Registered participants will also be able to access resources, including links to best practice and case studies, surgery and good practice request processes and conference call discussions.
However, while benchmarking can be a vital tool in improving safety, Andy Price, practice leader – EMEA, motor fleet at Zurich, who was a member of the working party that was instrumental in the development of the Fleet Safety Benchmarking tool, warns there is a potential downside.
“There are risks that a business discovers it is doing well and then becomes complacent,” he says.
“However, there is always scope for improvement that will continue to reduce both the total cost of risk and the total cost of ownership.”
Case study: Pfizer
Benchmarking road risk has led to a “significant improvement” for pharmaceutical giant Pfizer’s fleet.
The company benchmarks through eDriving Fleet’s fleet safety gap analysis tool as well as via trade bodies such as the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry.
“It is very important to us to gauge our level of success and where we are in the hierarchy of companies managing fleets,” says Simon Webb, senior director and regional EHS lead for global operations for Pfizer.
“For a pharmaceutical company like us, the biggest risks have traditionally been via explosions or chemical-related incidents.
“By and large we’ve managed to put in sufficient controls which means that, now, by far and away the biggest risk for anybody within Pfizer arises when they drive.
“It’s only in the past five years or so we have looked at the controls associated with driving and we do that through a number of ways, but benchmarking is particularly important.
“It means we can bypass the innovative thinking and just steal with pride and that’s a massive shortcut, not only in terms of the time it takes to reduce risk, but also expense.
“Also, you don’t have to spend lots of hours scratching your heads, you can just talk to your competitors and say look, we’ve all got the same problems, it is in the interests of everyone if we share.”
Webb says Pfizer is benchmarking against rival pharmaceutical companies, but also with logistics and distributor companies who have focused on road risk for many years.
“We are trying to catch up as fast as we can and that might mean becoming a lot more familiar with the technologies they use,” he adds.
“While our safety culture may be mature, they have got a much better handle on vehicle technology such as telematics which they have been using for a long time.”
Fleet safety benchmarking: sample questions
Occupational Road Safety Alliance’s Fleet Safety Benchmarking tool puts 30 statements to participants to measure their at-work road safety against a wide range of other organisations.
These statements cover six areas, with participants able to choose between ‘yes’, ‘moving towards’ and ‘no’.
Once completed, the process gives an overall risk rating as well as question-by-question benchmarks and feedback.
Here is a selection of the statements and the results:
Road Safety management policy
■ We have a comprehensive written, dated and published work-related road safety policy and strategy signed by the chief executive officer (or equivalent), which includes clear objectives and a commitment to improving driver safety performance over time.
■ Our road safety policy and strategy is fully understood and applied by all employees at all times.
Organisational leadership and road safety culture
■ We are committed to a culture of continuous improvement and zero collisions.
■ We have a culture that encourages our people to be comfortable with evaluation of their safety performance and to accept coaching and guidance to reduce their risk exposures and those to the wider community in which they drive for work purposes.
Journey and mobility management
■ We have a detailed travel planning and journey optimisation strategy in place covering both commuting and driving for work purposes.
■ Our work schedules allow sufficient time to complete journeys safely and efficiently at all times.
Driver recruitment, selection induction management and wellbeing
■ We have documented recruitment and selection policies and procedures which must be followed at all times for each driving category of employee, including professional, business and occasional users.
■ Our induction/orientation and training procedures require all new employees who will drive for work purposes to successfully pass a knowledge-based assessment of our road safety policies and guidelines during their probationary period.
Vehicle selection, safety, management, maintenance and security
■ All vehicles driven for work purposes are rated NCAP five star and include the very latest safety features available such as autonomous emergency braking.
■ Policies and procedures are in place to promote routine vehicle safety checks by drivers and planned vehicle maintenance in line with manufacturer recommendations.
Three ways safety benchmarking has helped BT Group
1. Incident rate
Data from benchmarking helped Dave Wallington, head of safety at BT Group, engage senior management to support the safety agenda. Analysis of collision data showed that, over a 14-year period in which its claims per 1,000 vehicles fell from 59 to 27, the company made its most significant improvements in the first five years of the programme.
“We have seen probably about 75% of our improvement in the first five years of our benchmarking programme,” says Wallington, head of safety at BT Group. “Since then the improvement has been smaller, but it is still an improvement, and that can be a difficult message to sell if a company is investing a lot of money in a programme. However, we had a PhD student and gave him all the data and asked him to tell us what it meant.”
His analysis showed that the reduction in all collisions involving BT vehicles was faster than the decline in the number of people killed or seriously injured (KSI) on the UK’s roads. “Not only do we have a much lower rate of all collisions compared to the rate of KSIs in the UK, but we have beaten the rate it has fallen over that period of time,” says Wallington.
“This means we can show that the reduction in our incident rate is not just about what is happening in society generally, it’s about what we’re doing.”
2. Knowing when to make a change
“We’ve really struggled with driver licence checking,” says Wallington. “Over the years we have used line managers to get people in once a year, look at their licence and say ‘yes, you can drive’, but that’s appalling practice and something that we have wanted to change for an awfully long time.
“However, the big stumbling block for us was always around the administration around paper mandates that the DVLA required.
“We pleaded our case with the DVLA and explained the economics of paper mandates wouldn’t work for a fleet of around 60,000 drivers. As a result, we ended up spending three years negotiating with the DVLA and other companies to get to the position where the DVLA let us become the first company to take on electronic mandates, with the roll-out happening last month (July).”
Benchmarking and collaboration with other companies over issues they were having with the paper mandate helped generate an understanding of what the problems were.
“That helped us internally instead of jumping in feet first with something that was going to cause us a huge logistical nightmare,” he says.
“We managed to delay the implementation of our driver licence checking and get more momentum around the control that managers had to apply at business. It has resulted in a very positive change for us.”
3. In-car distraction
BT had a “very animated debate” around 18 months ago over whether employees should be banned from using hands-free mobile phones while driving, says Wallington.
“The operational team said they couldn’t sustain the ban, our sales team said they couldn’t work with it, so we decided we would commission some specialist benchmarking in this area,” he adds.
“When we got the data back, we found very few companies had actually gone down the route of a complete ban.
“Most people had gone for some form of restriction on incoming/outgoing calls on hands-free devices.
“It allowed us to go back and have a sensible conversation with the business and say ‘we can live with your policy, but you’ve got to work harder to make sure it is enforced’.
“Benchmarking was a real benefit to us in that discussion because it was getting to be a real political hot potato.
“It helped us to say that we’re not going to be taking a decision that’s out of the mainstream. It’s not that benchmarking made our minds up, but it gave us the confidence to make the decision that was right for the business.”