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Safety rises up the fleet agenda

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PRIORITY 1: Policy

A top-down policy, which has been endorsed by the chief executive, is essential for a successful risk management programme.

Walsh suggests that it needs to be put to the board with a business case that focuses on managing the number of accidents and the cost of accidents – particularly hidden costs.

A number of stakeholders will need to be involved.

“Risk management needs to be part of the company’s DNA,” Murray says. “You need to ensure that if one manager leaves the whole programme doesn’t fall down.”

Graham Hine, University of Warwick transport manager, says that driver safety is an agenda item on overall health and safety at the university. He is involved in a number of consultations and discussions.

“It’s been driven from the bottom by me and from the top by the health and safety director,” he says. “The corporate manslaughter act has helped make driver safety a key area.”

Tony Raymond, fleet manager at Morrison Utility Services, agrees that it is important to have support from health and safety professionals.

He says: “The fleets that are doing better are the ones that have brought the health and safety professionals in because they have got a method of approach that reduces accidents.”

Guidelines in areas such as maintenance, drive fatigue, mobile phone use, alcohol and drugs policies, business insurance and what to do in the event of an accident should all be covered in the driver handbook. As a minimum, drivers should sign to show they have read and understood the company rules. Some firms test drivers on the guidelines.

Communicating the policy to drivers is a vital part of the acceptance process. It is best done face-to-face. When The Independent Group launched a fleet and driver policy in 2008, the fleet team chose national meetings with drivers rather than posting the new handbook to them.

A handbook policy checklist can be found here

PRIORITY 2: Drivers

“Drivers have a huge role to play in safety,” according to Hill. “The company establishes the policy, but everyone has responsibility for their own safety. It’s not just about driving in a safe manner it’s making sure the vehicle is well maintained and road worthy.

“In many cases the drivers aren’t aware of their own roles and responsibilities and work needs to be done in that area. We’ve done a huge amount of work with BT, for example, training and educating their line managers to manage drivers in line with BT’s policies and procedures.”

Step one begins at the recruitment stage with a licence check and online assessment. Previous driving history should be taken into consideration for an informed judgement.

“Someone might be a dynamic sales person, but if they’ve had three accidents in the past 12 months what does that mean to you as an employer?,” asks Hill. “If they continue to have accidents what will the cost be to your business?”

An online risk assessment can identify which drivers are low, medium or high risk and whether there is a requirement for training. Training should take place at the induction stage, particularly for van drivers.

Alternatively, if driving is going to be a main part of the job, consider introducing a driving test as part of the recruitment process.

No-one can get offered a job as a driver at Tesco Dotcom unless they have been assessed to prove their capability to drive the vehicle.

The hour-long assessment includes reversing manoeuvres and an on-road evaluation by a trained assessor. Around half potential recruits fail the test and there are no re-takes.
Walsh points out that training van drivers isn’t about teaching them how to drive it’s about training them for a specific job and a specific vehicle so they have the skills to park and load the vehicle, for instance.

Ceuta Health Care has a matrix of training needs and a number of policies in place. New starters who are under 25, anyone who has a serious accident, anyone who does more than 28,000 miles a year and anyone with nine points on their licence goes through driver training.

Facilities manager Helen Bolton, who is responsible for the fleet, says the company tries to “build up a picture of driver behaviour” by recording parking offences and accidents – whether the driver’s fault or not.

As the sales force is scattered across the country she asks line managers to let her know if they have any concerns with particular drivers.

Having in-house driver trainers is an approach increasing common for larger fleets. Morrison Utility Services has two – one in the north and the other in the south.

Raymond points out that with 1,850 cars and vans the company has “the scale of fleet” to justify employing trainers and that their salaries have been paid for in subsequent reductions in own damage costs alone.

Iron Mountain Europe, with a fleet of 290 vans, has five dedicated driver trainers across the UK and Ireland. All drivers are assessed prior to recruitment and undertake refresher training and an assessment at least annually. Coaching also takes places if a driver is involved in an accident where they are at fault or if they have had a serious accident and need to regain confidence.

Hill stresses the importance of on-going training and communication with drivers. “You need a structured driver training programme with a three-to-five year plan rather than a quick-fix approach,” he says.

“Working with your insurance company is important too as they have access to key data and can monitor and measure the programme’s success and highlight areas to address.”

Bolton has taken the idea of ‘toolbox talks’ from her previous employment at a building company and provides health and safety information to drivers, such as mobile phone use while driving, on a fortnightly basis.

Penalising drivers for own-fault accidents may also be part of improving driver safety, although fleet managers have mixed views whether this approach works. The University of Warwick, for instance, had to revise its policy on penalties as drivers became reluctant to report incidents.

An alternative approach is to reward drivers for driving in a safe manner. For example, Ceuta Health Care has a driver of the year award which is given to the driver who is accident-free, has no points on their licence, no parking fines and buys the cheapest fuel.

Other driver safety issues to consider are drug and alcohol testing and regular eyesight tests.


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