'One lesson I have learned over the years is that there is no quick fix to risk management. Driver training will help in the medium-term but training alone is not the solution. A successful risk management programme requires investment in time, money and resources.
To ensure success, a company must change its culture to the point where driving safely and responsibly becomes second nature to everyone. Most companies have still not undertaken a risk assessment to establish the starting point. But, crucially for any fleet safety programme to gain credibility, company bosses and senior and line management must actively champion the cause and lead by example.
It was that philosophy which was embraced at Ortho Diagnostic Systems (later Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics), part of Johnson & Johnson, and the company I joined in 1993 with responsibility for a 120-vehicle fleet following an interest in cars since I was a young girl.
In 1996, I became involved with the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) SAFE Fleet Programme, a worldwide fleet safety initiative. J&J provided a framework for its subsidiary companies to work from and I embraced the task with gusto.
Numerous steps were taken to reduce the risk and a fleet safety culture slowly evolved. After considerable team effort, a comprehensive fleet safety programme was in place. Fleet safety was firmly on the map and became a selling tool in itself. More importantly, our accident rate fell by 60%.
Initially, drivers were reluctant to participate in driver training – after all we all rate our driving skills highly – but they often called me after being involved in a close shave and started to thank the company for its caring attitude.
Without the SAFE Fleet Programme, the drivers said, they and their passengers would have been involved in a much more serious accident – the prevention of which was the whole point of the campaign.
In 2002 I entered the Fleet News Awards and, to my surprise, won the Risk Manager of the Year Award.
In January, I joined DriveTech (UK), the driver training company and a member of The FleetSafe Group, which also includes Risk Answers and DATA Programmes.
DriveTech had just won the risk management contract for UK-based Pfizer, part the world's largest pharmaceutical company, Pfizer Inc, and needed a manager to help the company implement its own fleet safety programme. My previous experience was a perfect match for the new position.
At the time I had other responsibilities at OCD apart from fleet but it was the fleet side of my job and particularly the risk management aspect that I enjoyed the most.
I now had the opportunity to use my experience and knowledge as both a fleet manager and as someone who had implemented a successful risk management strategy to help another major company improve its at-work driver safety performance.
Pfizer, which has more than 2,000 company car drivers, has a similar philosophy and approach as Johnson & Johnson towards health and safety in general, and fleet safety in particular. It places a high value on the safety and welfare of its employees. From a supplier's perspective, this approach makes the task in hand so much easier, since the concept of fleet safety has already been 'sold'.
The transition from client to supplier has been relatively easy since the roles are similar, albeit I am now on 'the other side of the fence'. Since joining DriveTech, I have used my experience in fleet management and risk management, advising clients, other than Pfizer, on policy matters and fleet safety.
With the legislative focus on occupational driving I will be working very closely with Pfizer in particular over the next few months, to get its own fleet safety programme fully under way.
But I also look forward to assisting all fleets with the challenges that lie ahead as they implement safe fleet strategies.'