Fleet News

Special report: driver training

The great brain train

WITH new legislation such as the Corporate Manslaughter and Road Safety laws on the way that hold companies responsible for their employees’ accidents, driver training has never been more important.

Independent assessment and advice for companies and their drivers can make a huge difference to safety and productivity. A trained driver is statistically less likely to have a crash, lowering the cost to the fleet – the average ‘bent metal’ cost of each accident is £630. Additionally, training sessions can reduce insurance bills and newly-learned skills can bring down fuel consumption and general wear and tear on brakes, clutches and tyres. Providing drivers with the skills they need to handle their cars with respect also means vehicles are in a better condition when the time comes to sell them, leading to higher values and lower overall running costs.

Training can lead to a reduction in stress for drivers and can give them a feeling that they are valued by their employers, according to training firm Drive & Survive. A spokesman said: ‘Fleet vehicle drivers who have been through training feel less stressed, more productive and more valued.

‘They often pass on their newly-acquired skills to friends and family too, extending the benevolence of the organisation which has funded the training.’

All-over workout for better driving

Head

Concentration is an important aspect. A tired driver is a dangerous driver, so much is made of the importance of stopping for 15 minutes every two hours. If fatigue continues, tell your drivers to find a safe place to park up and take a 20-minute rest. A caffeinated drink and a walk will help.

Eyes

Eye contact with other drivers and wise use of brake lights is encouraged to improve communication on the road. Scanning the road and horizon ahead can pick out groupings of power cables and telegraph poles, indicating a town or village – and quite possibly a speed camera – ahead. Mud or straw on the road is an indication of the presence of slow-moving farm vehicles and bins on the road’s verge means a stationary bin lorry could be just around the next corner.

Ears

Mobile phones are a contentious issue. Even using a hands-free kit can increase the likelihood of an accident. With his or her mind on conversation, the driver’s attention is diverted away from the road. Let calls go to voicemail and stop in a safe place to play back messages.

Stomach

The message not to drink-drive is getting through, but many drivers still fail to realise that a heavy night can mean they are still over the limit the following morning. If drivers have a day on the road ahead of them, advise them to take it easy the night before.

Prescription and non-prescription drugs can have side effects that affect driving performance. Some might not be immediately obvious, but can restrict reactions in an emergency. Even innocuous over-the-counter hay fever tablets can cause drowsiness, so tell your drivers to check labels and ask their doctors and pharmacists for anything they need to be aware of before getting behind the wheel.

Feet

Lots of drivers select as high a gear as possible in the belief that it will be more economical. But this can make it difficult to stay within urban speed limits. A general tip is to use third gear for 30mph, fourth for 40mph and fifth for 50mph and above.

Head

Concentration is an important aspect. A tired driver is a dangerous driver, so much is made of the importance of stopping for 15 minutes every two hours. If fatigue continues, tell your drivers to find a safe place to park up and take a 20-minute rest. A caffeinated drink and a walk will help.

Seat

Even seating position can have a dramatic effect on tiredness levels and a driver’s ability to control the vehicle in an emergency. Seats should be adjusted so that a driver’s eyes are in line with the centre of the windscreen and the middle of the head is in the centre of the headrest. When the arms are outstretched, the wrist should rest on the top of the steering wheel rim.

Why driver training worked for me

BEING objective about your own driving is harder than it sounds, but some aspects and tips seem blindingly obvious once they are pointed out.

As a new arrival at Fleet News I attended a half-day course with Oxfordshire-based firm Drive & Survive.

I met my trainer for the day, David Greenaway, outside the Fleet News' offices in Peterborough at 9am.

The training started with a 40-minute session sitting in front of Greenaway’s laptop, where we went through a Powerpoint presentation that asked me to point out risks in pictures and identify road signs.

It was completely pressure-free, totally unlike a test and more like a friendly chat over coffee.

After a few basic pointers, it was time to head out to the car and hit the busy roads of Peterborough city centre.

Greenaway did a quick safety check of the car’s tyres and lights. Apparently this can be a major issue – he told me that on many occasions that was as far as the training went, because the driver’s vehicle was not roadworthy.

After a brief demonstration with Greenaway in the driver’s seat, we swapped. We encountered most everyday driving situations one expects to see, from stop-start traffic and roundabouts to dual carriageways. I drove as normal and from time to time Greenaway offered suggestions on how I managed space around my car and identified risks as they arose.

My attitude to other drivers was noted and a few manoeuvres, such as parking and three-point turns, were thrown in.

After 75 minutes, we returned to the office for a debriefing. To my relief, Greenaway told me I’d done well.

Nevertheless, attention was drawn to spotting risks well ahead of me.

I had accelerated away from a roundabout and failed to immediately notice traffic at red lights a few hundred yards up the road. He pointed out that if I had, my braking would have been less harsh.

Verdict

I felt much more confident on the road after the session.

An independent adjudicator had judged that I was of a good overall standard and had drawn my attention to issues I should have been aware of. It was reassuring that my employer was concerned that my driving should be of as high a standard as possible and gratifying to be handed a logbook charting my progress. Phill Tromans

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