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Risk management: how to spot drivers at risk before it’s too late

IN the past year, thousands of drivers will have received a message in their inboxes signalling an industry revolution.

Online assessments of drivers are big business as employees try to prove their duty of care to employees.

The idea is based around a simple but effective theory. Rather than spending money training all your drivers, no matter how good they are, it is better to focus cash where it is needed.

Clearly, you can do this by training drivers who crash, but rather than wait for the inevitable, modern software allows companies to attempt to predict the future through driver profiling.

Drivers simply answer a range of questions in an online quiz and the results are automatically analysed to show up employees who are potentially at risk.

It isn’t a test and it isn’t foolproof, but at just a few pounds per employee, it is certainly worth the expense. As many industry experts now say – if you think safety is expensive, try accidents.

One of the systems available is the new Driver Profiler from risk management company Pro-Drive.

Graham Hurdle, managing director, explains that the test is more than simply ticking in a few boxes and denies it is designed to push companies towards driver training.

Instead it is designed to pinpoint potential problems through driver reactions. Rather than just a computer doing the checking, experts at Pro-Drive examine the results as well to identify key issues.

Some of the tests are timed, reflecting the fact that hazards often pass in just a few seconds, and some have several hazards of varying importance, but only one opportunity to identify dangers.

But there are more basic checks as well, Hurdle points out.

He said: ‘We look for certain things in the actual profile, such as if drivers passed their test before 1997. If they didn’t then you have to check what vehicle they are using as they may not be licensed to drive certain commercial vehicles.

‘We have a look at convictions – the company may not be aware of these – and how many accidents the driver has had. We look at driver mileage, including commuting, and how that adds to the working day. We also ask about vehicle check frequency. At one company we did recently, drivers never checked their vehicles. When the fleet manager looked at their cars, three of them had illegal tyres.

‘We also look at whether drivers are carrying loads and compare that to the vehicles they are driving.’

This all helps identify potential issues before drivers have even been asked about their skills on the road.

This can help with even the most basic areas. One company recently asked employees to play video games while answering mobile phones to show how distracting it was. Even with a hands-free kit on, out of 20 questions they could normally answer, only 11 were correct.

When drivers move to the ‘on-road’ section of the test, questions range from the basics, such as what road signs mean, to identifying dangers ahead, such as rows of houses and other observational issues.

When the profile is finished, the driver gets a personalised review, while the fleet manager has online access to all the test results.

Hurdle confirmed: ‘Since it was launched in April, more than 3,000 people have used our profiling system. We are getting some companies ordering 1,000 log-ins at a time.

‘It identifies some big issues, such as licence issues and vehicle checks. We thought about 25% of those tested might need full-blown training, but currently it is 5% to 10%.

‘Some companies are using this system to screen people before they give them a job and have done that for several hundred employees.’

Driver profiling costs £10 per use, although there are discounts for large deals.

Case study

THE National Autistic Society (NAS), with 800 drivers, has incorporated Pro-Drive’s Online Driver Profiling System into its national policy.

In the past, NAS driver assessments were partly carried out by the employee’s line manager or health and safety manager.

Holly Taylor, training and development co-ordinator for the NAS, said: ‘As a responsible employer, we have always been keen to identify and rectify any training needs, especially where safety and driving are concerned.

‘Using the Pro-Drive system has enhanced the quality of the assessment and training. Previously, we got a straight risk rating for each employee. With the Pro-Drive system, risk areas are broken down and clarified in each case.’

Low risk? There’s always room for improvement

Modern driver training systems can pinpoint more than basic risk levels and even those at low risk may need extra tuition, as these three examples demonstrate. Graham Hurdle turns risk detective

‘This driver took a post L-test assessment in the past two years and has not had any accident claims in the past five years. We noted that he spends up to four hours a day driving on business, so we would need to be sure there wasn’t a lot of commuting on top of that. He doesn’t carry loads in his boot or passenger compartment. If he did, there would be risk issues to consider there.’

‘One thing that we picked up is time taken to do the test. He took 10 minutes when it normally takes 20 minutes. This might be an indication of how he drives. Observation and hazard perception were a problem. A tailored course for him would include identifying clues to hazards by using indicators such as shadows on the road. He tended to focus directly ahead so needs to open up his field of vision.’

All his errors where were the dangers were to the sides, such as on the pavement.’

‘Some sections of the test indicate that training is badly needed in some areas. Once again, a rushed test. He has already had some training in the past year and is doing quite a few personal miles. We would focus on vehicle checks, stopping distances and road markings. He has pretty good observation, but he is not very good at interpreting what he is seeing correctly.’

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