In the same way that teaching can feed a man for life, the Government believes that it is the way to keep people and our planet alive in future. Earlier this year, Transport Minister Stephen Ladyman announced a controversial decision that he was going to scrap green grants for low emission cars, explaining that he could only support about 8,000 cars a year, a drop in the automotive ocean when it comes to car sales.
Instead he announced much of his £40 million budget was being ploughed into training, providing companies and drivers with skills for life that would make a long-term difference to pollution and road safety. A hefty chunk of this money is going into SAFED for Vans. SAFED stands for Safe and Fuel Efficient Driving and it does exactly what it says on the brochure.
The idea comes from the heavy goods vehicle industry, where a highly successful programme led to big fuel savings for drivers and gave them the skills to spot potential accidents.
It operates at two levels, firstly by training the trainers on how to give the course, so they can then spread their knowledge throughout the country. The second part is to provide training to as many van drivers as possible.
The first investment of £1.3 million at the start of this year was expected to create a network of 200 van trainers and train 3,500 drivers, but with the latest Government cash injection this network could double and thousands more drivers will benefit.
The potential rewards are huge.
According to latest figures, vans accounted for some 36 billion miles of distance travelled and 90% of this was in connection with collection and delivery of goods, travel between homes and workplace or journeys between jobs.
Assuming average fuel economy of 35mpg - generous for a fully-laden van of any size - this accounts for some £4.6 billion of diesel, meaning a 10% saving would account for £466 million on the bottom line of UK plc.
In addition, van drivers have a habit of being involved in a lot of accidents (although you are three times more likely to crash in a car), either through lack of training or through work pressure, with some companies reporting fleet accident rates of 120%, because some drivers crash several times in a year.
According to figures from the Department for Transport, there were 6,897 casualties in LCV road accidents, including 765 killed or seriously injured in 2004.
Experts at SAFED believe the impact of their course will be far-reaching.
Their research shows that safer driving means fewer injuries, lower accident repair costs, less unproductive downtime for vehicle repair, potentially reduced insurance premiums, lower fuel costs, lower wear and tear, reduced emissions, better environmental performance and more relaxed drivers.
How the course works
SAFED for Vans has been designed as a single-day course aimed at improving the safe and fuel-efficient driving techniques of LCV drivers.
The training programme has been developed specifically to enable both fleet operators and training providers to implement driver training within the LCV industry.
Ideally, training should be performed in a driver’s usual vehicle, with two drivers to one trainer. If this is not possible, the training provider will arrange transport.
The day starts with a two-hour introductory session, followed by a one-hour driving assessment, based on half an hour per driver.
After a half hour debrief, there is a demonstration drive to show the benefits of any hints and tips provided.
Drivers then have 30 minutes each of vehicle and roadcraft instruction, followed by a session on parking and manoeuvring, before a final half hour assessment drive.
Key benchmarks are examined during the training, including fuel economy and the number of gear changes drivers make.
Drivers are also assessed on their performance in safety checks and knowledge tests, as well as the number of faults recorded during the day’s practical driving sessions, before they have a final debrief.
Successful drivers receive a certificate of achievement, but they aren’t guaranteed to pass.
The grading system is based on a driver’s performance against 18 individual elements of safe and fuel-efficient driving over the second drive, with marks of good, fair or unsatisfactory.
After the knowledge quiz, certificates can be awarded at three levels: excellent, good and fair. Drivers fail if they can’t reach the required standard in any of the knowledge tests, vehicle checks or have fewer than 34 faults in total in the practical driving assessment.
Hundreds of trainers are already approved by SAFED and they can be located on a national database provided by the organisation on its website www.safed.org.uk.
A wide range of driver training companies have already signed up for the course, including DriveTech, one of Britain’s biggest driver training companies, which provides national coverage.
Programme manager Claire Shrewsbury said: ‘Vans play a very important role in the UK and there are a lot of van drivers out there. They could make a real difference to road safety and to the environment.’
What are the benefits?
A PILOT scheme trained a total of 25 drivers late last year.
The scheme was based on a highly successful initiative aimed at the truck market by SAFED which had achieved significant fuel economy savings.
Drivers were assessed before and after training, with drives lasting approximately 25 minutes.
After the first trial of van driver training, the results showed that fuel use fell in 23 of the 25 drivers taking part in the training.
On average, consumption was reduced by 10% over a journey of nine miles, predominantly urban and rural roads.
Gearchanges are a key contributor to vehicle wear and a sign of how smoothly the vehicle is being driven. As a result of the training, on average the number of gear changes fell by 59%.
In addition to fuel economy and the safety training drivers receive, fatigue levels are reduced simply because there is less physical work changing gears all the time.
And because drivers are being trained to read the road ahead, their journey is less taxing because there are no nasty surprises.
Most importantly for the trainers, the pre-training and the post-training course both took the same amount of time, showing the careful and fuel-efficient driving doesn’t have to be slow.
How much does it cost?
THIS is a killer question, as often a company’s commitment to training falls at the first financial hurdle, but employers will be pleasantly surprised. If you want to become a trainer, then the training is free anyway. However, for van driver training there is a set tariff.
For most companies, the training is free, but for larger firms, a small contribution fee applies. For any company with fewer than 50 employees, training is free whether the customer provides the vans or not.
For companies with between 50 and 249 employees, training is free if the fleet provides the vans, or £50 a driver is the training company has to supply them.
For companies with 250 employees and over, training costs £50 per driver with fleet vans and £100 if the trainer provides vehicles.
Before you start
BEFORE undertaking the programme, companies need a development plan to make the most of their efforts to cut accidents and costs.
A co-ordinator will need to establish any activities and maintain momentum following implementation of the training.
A SAFED spokesman said: ‘In most organisations, this is likely to be the fleet manager.’
The majority of driver development is about changing attitudes and experts warn this can’t be done by compulsion.
Companies need to encourage drivers to change – and reward them when they do.
SAFED points out that its own experience has shown drivers respond well to initiatives that result in personal benefits such as safety improvements and time and cost savings.
A spokesman said: ‘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.’
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, 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 costs and then reporting the results back to other departments that have an involvement in the fleet, such as HR and finance.
Senior management also needs to be directly involved, especially as the board will be making the commitment on funding and staff resources allocated to any project.
Fundamentals of safe and fuel-efficient driving
THE DRIVING ENVIRONMENT
Operating the vehicle
Safe driving - a different language
THE SAFED driving course introduces drivers to a whole range of new phrases and sayings. Here are just a few:
Tips for a successful development programme
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’.
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. An assessment should also include a look at the loads being carried.
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 on performance indicators such as fuel economy, travel cost and incidents, measured per mile, will help assess and compare the overall performance of drivers and vehicles. It can also be used to benchmark against other fleets.
Producing and examining monthly reports on drivers gives a clear and regular indication of where a company will get the best return for its investment when it comes to safety and other factors. Monitoring can take a variety of different forms, from simple 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.
Full details of the SAFED for Vans course and companies supplying the training are available on its website. Click on the SAFED for Vans logo. Alternatively call 0870 1908440 to find the training organisation nearest to your company