Executives fresh to the role of fleet management could do a lot worse than follow the example of Corgi’s fleet mentor, Phillippa Caine.
Responsible for introducing numerous risk management initiatives, Caine has slashed accident rates across the 180-strong fleet, she is planning new steps to improve the fleet even further and has the Fleet News Fleet Risk Management Award, sponsored by Kwik-Fit Fleet, under her belt.
Caine, who is the company secretary at Corgi, adopts a proactive approach to fleet management and credits her success to the vast amount of information available to fleet managers.
She regularly attends the Association of Car Fleet Operators (ACFO) meetings, consults the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidelines on work-related road safety and uses the media to remain ahead of risk management issues.
She also has valuable tips for new fleet managers wanting to introduce a risk management policy but not really knowing where to begin.
Caine explained: ‘The first thing a new fleet manager introducing a health and safety policy should do is set up a car users’ guide for employees.
‘Secondly, ban the use of mobile phones including hands-free kits across the fleet, and thirdly, assess and review the risk including policies on training. There is so much information out there for fleets wanting to compile information and the HSE document is an easy read.’
It is vital that fleet managers get the support and backing from those higher up the corporate ladder, according to Caine.
She believes that, without support from the board, fleet managers will be fighting a losing battle.
Caine said: ‘Board support is vital. Fleets will not get anywhere without board support but this is not an issue with Corgi.
‘In the past I have agreed to speak to companies whose directors will not listen. But fleets could get a consultant or someone from ACFO to speak to the directors.’
However, the benefits of introducing a successful risk management policy can lead to praise from both the board and the company car drivers.
‘The highlight for us was winning the Fleet News Award as it meant we could go back and congratulate the staff. We received a lot of stick for what we did but we have all met and achieved the standards. There is now realisation from drivers who now appreciate what we’ve done.’
The judges in this year’s Fleet News Awards commended Caine on the initiatives she has introduced and for her commitment to health and safety.
The judges said: ‘Few can better an accident rate of one collision every 133,333 miles in a 180-vehicle fleet, or a no-blame incident rate of one every 571,439 miles.
‘The fleet offers a blueprint for best practice when it comes to health and safety, with everything from sensitively handled drink-driving education to licence checks, a thorough mobile phone policy, regular eye tests and a ban on the use of private cars for company business except in strictly controlled circumstances.’
Not all the initiatives introduced by Caine have received such glowing praise. When she banned all mobile phone use while driving – years before the Government banned the use of handheld phones – a large number of drivers did not welcome the idea.
‘When we banned mobile phones the policy went down like a lead balloon. We have had two cases since where we suspected that a phone was being used. The drivers received warnings after a disciplinary hearing, but this was in 2000 and we have not had any further problems,’ Caine said.
However, one initiative which was immediately welcomed by staff was alcohol awareness training.
Drug and alcohol awareness group Avoidd visited the group’s offices for half-day seminars.
Caine said: ‘The alcohol training has had a really good uptake and everyone had the option to do it.
‘The reason behind introducing this was safety. We began by looking at how to reduce fatigue, because we do not have a problem with heavy drinkers but if a driver has been drinking during the evening they may be tired the next day.
‘If an inspector lost his or her licence we would have to recruit and train a new member of staff which would be a major inconvenience.’
The group is constantly improving its policies and has recently taken delivery of 80 new vehicles, switching from Citroen to a multi-marque fleet including Honda, Skoda and Mazda.
Caine opted for a wider vehicle choice in a bid to give drivers more options. She said: ‘We have updated the fleet policy for emotive reasons and to increase the badges available but have restricted models on offer. We now have one or two models and the criteria is strict but it is all about recruitment and retention.’
Integrating the new fleet will be one of Caine’s priorities during the next year which she anticipates as one of her major challenges.
She has also embarked on a large-scale assessment of all drivers which will determine risk categories for every company car driver. Corgi currently completes driver assessments but a revamped policy will improve the procedure, Caine believes.
She explained: ‘We are about to re-issue driver assessments. We have updated and personalised the form to assess the ability of the driver and the car they are using.
‘This means 180 drivers and casual drivers fill in a form which is analysed by a third party. The results are measured for risk and, if a driver is categorised as high risk, they will be given a full car audit, but we are hoping no one will be higher than medium risk.’
Corgi is hoping to have all the assessment forms back by the end of this month, but the work will not end there, as the assessments will be ongoing as new employees start.
Caine is also looking at introducing a ‘climate survey’, which will show the company what its drivers think of the safety policy. It will be included as part of an employee survey handed out towards the end of the year and will be a first for Corgi.
Caine said: ‘We think we are doing a good job but we want to check with the survey as it may highlight areas for us to improve on.’
It is this drive and constant need to improve which helped Caine slash the company’s accident rate in the first place.
With new policies and initiatives on the horizon who knows what could happen to the group’s impressive accident statistics over the next year.