This is the view of Doug Holland, the proprietor of risk management and driver training group NW: Driver Safer. He believes the tea and sympathy approach gets fleets nowhere.
He said: ‘The tendency to commiserate with, console and offer sympathy to a driver involved in a road crash has no place in motor fleet risk management. It can be a positive hindrance and even a danger.
‘Any organisation serious about an intention to properly manage the risk associated with its on-road motor vehicle use must rid itself of such behaviour if it wishes to make significant inroads into its accident rate.’
This hard-hitting approach is key to driving down accident rates, according to Holland, who believes that fleet managers need to work out if their employer is really concerned about accident rates or whether they are more interested in keeping key employees happy.
Holland said: ‘Recognised and respected disciplinary processes must support the post-incident investigation and be available for use where necessary and as appropriate.
‘Sweeping an incident under the carpet with the phrase ‘Accident – no further action required’, helps nobody. All carrot and no stick may be popular with the troops, but in the final analysis it won’t win the war.
‘Business has to get angry about crashes, otherwise nothing will change and it will continue to haemorrhage people, time, money and other resources.’
Fleet managers need to ask whether a minor prang in a car park is important to the company’s finance director or whether bosses are more concerned about making sure the sales rep’s appointment is re-scheduled.
Holland says fleet decision- makers should pose more probing questions when dealing with drivers.
He said: ‘Ask, is the vehicle user required to account for the incident or do they just report the bare details by telephone or basic report form and then hear no more about it?
‘Are any serious efforts made to find out what went wrong, or is the driver who has written off their vehicle simply supplied with another one and left to carry on repeating the mistake that just nearly killed them?
‘This is about the significance of the event to the organisation, the priority placed on driver safety and the resulting message which will be sent out to other road users about these matters.’
By asking such questions, those immediately responsible for driver behaviour will be able to adapt polices to make a more rigid risk system and introduce measures to combat poor risk policies.
He added: ‘Hard questions have to be asked, and answers have to be insisted on and then acted on. Flawed or inadequate systems that are discovered have to be altered or alternative ones introduced.
‘Training deficiencies have to be met, poor attitudes have to be adjusted and inappropriate vehicles have to be re-placed. High-risk routes have to be avoided, undue time pressures have to be eased and unrealistic targets have to be altered.’
The final phase of a risk management policy must include follow-up procedures. This ensures that the same mistakes do not happen twice and drivers are less keen to be complacent when out on the road.