Safety and risk management are rising back up the fleet agenda, according to fleet operators and industry suppliers.
Discussions at a Fleet News roundtable in May were dominated by risk management issues and leasing giant LeasePlan is also noticing the trend among its customers.
Seana Hay, LeasePlan’s product manager, accident management and SafePlan, says: “Every organisation should value the safety of their drivers above all else. This was not compromised during the economic downturn, but cost reduction became the urgent priority for many fleets. Cost pressures remain acute, but are less all-encompassing and other considerations are regaining prominence, including safety. Companies are looking for ways to improve the efficiency of their fleet and that includes driver safety.”
There are two main reasons to make safety a business priority: to save money and to save lives.
Save money, reduce cost
Although improving the safety of the fleet requires investment, one of the spin-offs is savings resulting from lower insurance premiums and less vehicle damage as well as saving on the ‘hidden cost’ of accidents such as staff and vehicle downtime, hire vehicles, loss of business, late deliveries, administration, legal fees, third party costs and damage to brand/reputation.
Experts suggest the hidden cost of accidents is around three times higher than the visible costs.
BT cut its collision rate from more than 60 per thousand vehicles in 2001 to 30 in 2009, reducing costs by about £12 million per annum in the process.
Adrian Walsh, director of RoadSafe, says: “Companies looking at managing costs see there are gains to be made from driver management.”
Dr Will Murray, research director at Interactive Driving Systems, adds: “There is a clear link between safety and profitability.”
Save lives – the legal and moral case
Murray also suggests that the “legal and moral business case” for driver safety and risk management is “still strong”.
Health and safety legislation and the corporate manslaughter act have made many fleet operators and companies consider the duty of care owed to at-work drivers.
(A table of key health and safety legislation can be found here)
Richard Hill, managing director of driver training provider Peak Performance, says: “Three years ago I would have guestimated that less than a third of the fleet market had any form of structured risk management approach, but the profile and importance of driver safety and risk management has since increased.
“Legislation has been a key contributory factor, but corporate social responsibility and environmental issues have played a part too.
“The other key area has been the involvement of the insurance industry in promoting risk management. I estimate that 40 to 50% of fleets in the UK have had some exposure to risk management and driver training whether it be through their own volition or prompted by their insurer.”
A structured risk management programme isn’t simply about implementing a driver training programme, companies need a comprehensive approach. “It’s about taking a holistic approach and looking at every area of risk, not just the driver,” Hill says.
Walsh suggests four areas that need to be prioritised: management policy, drivers, vehicles and journeys.