Damian Penney (pictured), vice president at Lytx Europe
2020 was a year when commercial drivers faced exceptional pressure.
The spike in demand started with the panic buying of toilet roll and pasta and ended with one of the busiest Christmas delivery seasons on record: the shift to online shopping resulted in 200 million more parcels in the postal system this year.
As new lockdowns close high street shops again in many regions and shoppers become still more accustomed to the ease of buying and returning online, this new level of demand for home delivery looks set to continue.
On top of this extra strain, drivers are having to contend with the usual seasonal safety concerns that come with winter weather conditions.
At this time of year, we always seem to hear news statements along the lines of, “icy roads have caused another accident today on the M6….”
The reality, however, is that the weather isn’t causing these accidents – people are.
Poor weather conditions play a part, along with increased pressure to get the job done, but it’s crucial that commercial drivers are anticipating the risk and adjusting their driving accordingly.
To help stay safe on the road, fleet managers can communicate the ‘‘4 P’s’’ to fleets:
Pace – It’s crucial that drivers slow down when conditions affect visibility or vehicle traction.
A speed limit sign shouldn’t be the sole factor in determining how fast or slow a vehicle should be travelling.
It’s important to evaluate all the conditions, and to take vehicle type and weight into account along with weather. 25 mph in heavy snow can be riskier than 75 on a clear road.
Position – Space is an essential element in safe driving.
It becomes even more critical when bad weather hits. By increasing their following distance, drivers can ensure they have time to react if another driver makes a mistake.
Video telematics can help detect when a driver is following too close, and if this is becoming a repeat problem that needs addressing.
The technology used in these systems can alert the driver in the moment, as well as capturing video at the time of the incident for future analysis.
This information allows drivers to correct and adapt quickly, keeping everyone safer.
Plan ahead – Slowing down to a speed more suitable for the conditions means journeys may take a little longer.
Fleet managers can factor this in by reviewing data around shift patterns and busy roads in order to make sure drivers are taking the most effective route.
Patience – Poor weather often leads to traffic jams and delays which can be hugely frustrating for drivers under pressure to complete X number of deliveries within a certain timeframe.
This can be exacerbated when drivers want to get home to their families at the end of a shift.
Feeling frustrated, stressed or anxious can impact driving styles – be it increased road rage or getting distracted by a mobile phone.
Fleet managers can use video telematics to keep on top of any changes in behaviour and understand if a moment of road rage is a blip, or a behaviour that is happening more regularly.
These insights allow for more focused conversations between manager and driver.
Compliance with each of the “4 Ps” is dependent on drivers receiving the right information.
Whether that comes in the form of an in-cab alert about the distance of the vehicle in front, or as a summary of patterns of risky driving behaviour, it’s all about capturing accurate data you can trust and presenting it to drivers in the right way.
By planning ahead for the dangers associated with winter driving, and communicating clear mitigating measures to drivers, fleet managers can share the responsibility for winter driving safety with their fleet.
Drivers feel more supported when a manager understands the pressures they are facing, while technology empowers them to adjust their own driving to adverse weather conditions.
The result is that everyone on the roads will be safer this winter.