Fleet News

Guest opinion: taking the right path to safety

FLEET managers must ensure they have the right strategy in place before launching a driver risk management policy, according to Will Murray of Zurich Risk Services.

'The need for fleet decision-makers to manage the risks associated with driving for work purposes is at last being recognised as a 'must have' rather than a 'nice to have'. Safety industry groups such as the Work-related Road Safety Task Group and the on-going debate over corporate manslaughter, must surely focus fleet managers into looking at how they manage the risks their drivers face.

And the pressure on fleet managers to manage risk is set to increase, with the launch of a joint guidance document by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and Department for Transport (DfT) due for publication in September 2003.

This is expected to state that a vehicle is classified as a workplace under health and safety regulations.

So where to start? Reliable information is key for fleet managers trying to determine where they should invest their safety budget for the best returns. The reporting, investigation and recording of crashes involving company vehicles is a starting point for fleet managers wanting to identify where risks lie. Using this information, they are able to develop a targeted strategy to manage and mitigate risks to improve the safety performance of the fleets.

The Company Vehicle Incident Reporting and Recording Report of April 2003 (CoVIR) sets out to better understand crashes involving company vehicles in Britain. Developed for the DfT, its primary objectives were to produce a comprehensive review of current incident reporting and recording methods and to develop best practice recommendations for vehicle accident reporting that fleet managers could actually use.

The report found that existing systems tended to be good for claims management, but were weaker on crash investigation and analysis.

For this situation to be improved fleet managers need to find ways to systematically collate information which is simple to measure and compare. CoVIR introduces such a system, including at-scene 'bumpcards', a combined accident report and investigation form, a coding card and user manual.

Sample forms are contained in the report's appendices to help fleet managers standardise recording and therefore benchmark findings. Managing information about a business's fleet activities could also help to shift behaviour, such as:

  • Moving from a culture of complacency to activity by raising the risk awareness of managers and their drivers.
  • Focusing on the trade-off between operational and safety needs, and the cost of countermeasures against benefits.
  • Developing solutions for the actual risks and issues the fleet manager faces, such as poor management systems and problems with slow speed manoeuvring or at specific blackspot locations.

    To facilitate this change, it is important for fleet managers to first audit where they are now. Based on findings from CoVIR, a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) have been developed to evaluate existing safety programmes. They include a range of proactive and reactive indicators based on costs, claim rates and more qualitative measures. Fleet managers are then able to recommend to the business where they want to be in terms of fleet safety management.

    To assist in this process Zurich Risk Services is able to examine the safety culture of an organisation and the way it manages its people, vehicles, sites and mobility. This information or evidence is then used to develop fleet risk management programmes.

    This approach draws heavily on a second recently-launched report funded by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB). This also recommends a data-led approach and the need to focus on a range of holistic tools to help fleet managers review and understand their current risks in order to develop targeted cost-effective programmes to reduce them.

    There is no doubt that an effective recording system ensures a better understanding of any driving for work problems, and therefore allows fleet managers to allocate and manage both road and health and safety resources.

    To achieve this, the research and our experience suggest that an evidence-based, holistic approach to fleet risk management is the best way forward.

  • The author is a senior risk consultant at Zurich Risk Services' Motor Fleet Practice
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