Sadly not, in most cases, as the common or garden van is seen as a disposable asset to be used and abused.
And you are not likely to find senior management especially bothered about this sorry situation.
In your quest to get bosses to sit up and pay attention, perhaps some pertinent facts might do the job: vans account for 36 billion miles of distance travelled each year and 90% was in connection with collection and delivery of goods, travel between homes and workplace or journeys between jobs.
Assuming generous average fuel economy of 35mpg, this accounts for £4.6 billion of diesel, meaning a 10% saving would see £466 million on the bottom line of UK plc. In addition, some companies are reporting fleet accident rates of 120%, often because some van drivers crash several times in a year.
According to the Department for Transport, there were 6,897 LCV casualties last year, including 765 killed or seriously injured.
Although fuel and accidents are two of the biggest costs companies will face, they are often hidden because the true value is spread between different cost centres, such as purchasing, HR, finance and administration.
The Government is also aware of this situation and has shown its eagerness to tackle the problem by ploughing millions of pounds into the SAFED (Safe and Efficient Driving) for vans scheme, offering training to companies and drivers.
Initial research suggests a 10% improvement in fuel economy and a significant reduction in accident rates can be expected.
Get the right message across to the van fleet
IT doesn’t take an expert to work out that the key to success is the drivers.
If their attitudes can’t be changed, then any hope of lower fuel costs or reduced accidents can be thrown out of the window.
According to the SAFED scheme, the benefits have to be sold to drivers, which requires as much skill as training them.
A SAFED spokesman said: ‘Experience has shown the drivers respond well to initiatives that result in personal benefits such as safety, time and cost.
‘It is important that drivers do not feel threatened by proposed changes. Raising awareness of the nature of the proposed development programme, asking for views and responding to ideas will help motivation and commitment.’
Once change is introduced, it is also important to publicise successes (such as through a regular newsletters) to let drivers know what they have achieved to give them the motivation to continue.
The fleet manager
FLEET managers are the cornerstone of any successful campaign to make a difference on a van fleet.
They have a detailed understanding of the problems, a close relationship with the drivers and they can quickly predict the impact any decision will have on the drivers, the vehicle costs and the business as a whole.
They are also likely to be the best people to take responsibility for actions aimed at reducing business fleet costs and then reporting the results back to other departments that have an involvement in the fleet, such as HR and finance.
Before any ideas are even formulated, the fleet decision-maker will be able to provide a vital overview of the current state of the fleet, including mileage records, accident statistics and driver details, alongside a history of any issues facing the fleet.
And although fleet managers can drive change, they can still struggle to make a difference if the funding – and authority – isn’t available to help.
For this reason, it is essential that senior management is involved from the start to ensure that fleet managers have the support they need to make a difference and the funding necessary to put any schemes in place.
WITH commitment from senior management, most experts in the industry agree that it is more likely that initiatives will succeed.
Some of the most important managers to have on board include managers or directors responsible for environmental or health and safety issues, as they will be affected by any the benefits of any scheme.
They might also be able to persuade other senior managers about the benefits of any programme, and act as champions that can get – or force – employees behind the scheme.
How to run a driver development programme
Monitor accident rates
INCIDENTS can be anything from parking scrapes to high-speed road traffic accidents which result in death and injury. Record them all, because ‘what you can’t measure, you can’t manage’.
Undertake risk assessment
Risk assessment is vital to the efficiency of any organisation.
No employer can have a true picture of their situation without systematic checks. Risk assessments should be carried out to determine the suitability of vehicles, the areas in which they are used, the level and type of driver training required and any other uses.
Monitor fuel consumption
WHETHER through fuel cards or any other system, fleets need to understand a range of issues about the fuel they use, including the distance vehicles are covering, the volume of fuel used, the cost of fuel purchased each time a fill-up is required and the total cost of fuel used.
Monthly reports, measured per mile on performance indicators such as fuel economy, travel cost and incidents, will help assess and compare the overall performance of drivers and vehicles. It can also be used to benchmark against other fleets.
Examining monthly reports on drivers gives a clear and regular indication of where a company will get the best return for its investment in safety and other factors. Monitoring can take a variety of different forms, from fuel checks to hi-tech vehicle tracking systems.
REWARDS are the best ways to get drivers motivated, as long as it is appropriate, so avoid gold stars and long speeches. Think vouchers, company recognition and so on for achieving things like the lowest accident rate and highest fuel economy.
Once isn’t enough when it comes to van fleets. Make sure there are ongoing checks on how the fleet is performing, along with a commitment to long-term funding from management to tackle any problem areas that crop up.
More help and advice
THERE is plenty of advice available for fleets wanting to take more proactive steps when it comes to van driver safety.
A first point of call can be other people with involvement in fleet, such as Jon York, compliance manager at British Gas parent company Centrica.
British Gas recently announced it would demand that manufacturers fit speed limiters to its fleet of more than 10,000 vans in a bid to ensure its drivers remain safe on the road.
Company bosses say the move is proactive rather than reactive and as well as boosting safety levels, it will also lower its £14 million annual fuel bill.
The company has also moved to promote driver training by taking part in an experiment which studied the driving habits of company drivers, in a scheme organised by AA Business Services.
York is happy to discuss British Gas fleet safety moves with other fleet executives. Contact him at: email@example.com
There are plenty of commercial organisations that can help too, such as leasing companies that specialise in the van market.
Among them is LeasePlan, which has launched LCV-Link, a business tool that it claims can help to reduce vehicle downtime by more than 50%, by delivering a free fleet evaluation, out-of-hours service and repair, a bespoke daily rental service and expert guidance.
Driver training companies can offer specific advice and provide help directly related to vans. For small fleets, it could even be free.
SAFED is provided free to small fleets thanks to millions of pounds of support from the Department for Transport.
And don’t forget the police.
Their first role isn’t prosecution, or persecution, it is helping the public and business at large, especially to reduce accidents.
Specialist officers can provide advice and guidance and provide information for drivers.
For example, a ‘know your limits’ campaign, aimed at Scottish fleets by the East Coast Safety Camera Partnership, is warning van drivers that if they obey speed limit signs on roads they could end up with points on their licence.
Speed limit signs are only meant to apply to cars and often the limit is significantly lower for drivers of goods vehicles of any size.
For cars and car-derived vans up to two tonnes, the speed limit is 30mph in urban areas, 60mph on single carriageways and 70mph on dual carriageways and motorways.
For goods vehicles and car derived vans of two to 7.5 tonnes, the limit is 50mph on single carriageways, 60mph on dual carriageways and 70mph on motorways if the van does not have a trailer.