How to make life on the road easier for your business drivers

For millions of employees, life on the road has become a central part of their job role. But of course, driving isn’t always our favourite way to spend time! It’s inherently risky, often stressful and – if not managed correctly – can hurt, rather than help our productivity, health and happiness.

DID YOU KNOW:

  • SAFETY: Just under 200,000 people were injured on the roads in the UK last year, and around a third of them were believed to be on journeys for work.
  • HEALTH & WELLBEING: 60% of drivers suffer from stress when driving at peak times.
  • MONEY: Research has suggested that drivers have more sick days, perhaps linked to the physiological factors of driving – which is linked to drops in fitness and sleep quality.

In this article we’ll take a look at some ways to make life easier for business drivers in your organisation.

1. Plan journeys properly

A lot of the stress and risk of road transport can be mitigated by planning journeys in advance – and leaving in plenty of time to complete trips safely. Nobody likes to feel ‘rushed’ and, clearly, it’s a feeling that can lead to careless/reckless driving and unnecessary stress.

There’s a clear and emphatic link between speed and accident risk, proven repeatedly in numerous studies and reports.

The relationship between speed and road accidents has been studied extensively and is very clear: the higher the speed, the greater the probability of a crash and the severity of the crashes.” European Transport Safety Council Report

Allowing ample time to complete journeys encourages slower, safer driving. It minimises the risk of accidents and creates a happier, more relaxed mindset. Give it a try!

You should also be sure to allow adequate rest periods. Research suggests that as many as 1 in 6 crashes resulting in death or injury on major roads could be fatigue-related. That’s just one of the reasons why break periods are mandated in law, and absolutely essential for drivers to do their job safely and happily. No driver should be required to drive continuously for more than 2 hours without at least a 15 minute break, and you also need to ensure that the drivers’ hours for professional drivers are the statutory maximum.

How to do it?

Technology can help! The days of planning routes with a map and a pen and paper are long-gone for many businesses. Telematics technology, like WEBFLEET from Webfleet Solutions for example, can help predict journey times based on historical and live traffic information to give a more realistic view of the days schedule. It can provide accurate ETAs for both drivers, and customers to help manage expectations and offer an alternative route when the traffic is heavy, roads are closed, or where there is an unexpected incident to keep the day on track.

For those with multiple appointments each day, routing and scheduling software can save the painstaking process of planning the most economical way of getting round a bunch of appointments.

Read up on drivers’ hours legislation and ensure that policy, procedures and culture is in place, so that drivers receive the rest periods they’re legally entitled to as a minimum.

2. Take the lead on vehicle safety

Another significant risk factor when it comes to road safety is vehicle maintenance. Things like worn brakes, under-inflated tyres and insufficient tread depth may sound fairly innocuous – but they’re proven to increase both the risk of accidents occurring, and the severity when they do.

In the UK, of course, vehicles over 3 years old must pass an annual MOT check to ensure roadworthiness. Most vehicles, if routinely checked, would have no problem passing the MOT test, but government figures suggest that around 35% of vehicles fail the first test – which gives you an idea of how many drivers fail to maintain and check their vehicle properly.

As an employer, helping ensure the maintenance and safety of your business vehicles isn’t just an optional extra, it’s absolutely essential and enshrined in various health and safety legislation. Even if your business does not own the vehicle yourself, it’s your responsibility as an employer to ensure that the vehicle is properly checked and maintained.

Of course, most drivers don’t maliciously decide to operate their vehicle dangerously. They simply lack knowledge of what, when and how to check their vehicle safety, or aren’t given the directive or time to do so.

How to do it?

You can help your drivers by educating them as to how to check their vehicle, and give them financial support with the cost of repairs and maintenance. As a welcome side note, they’ll also find that properly maintaining their vehicle can help increase fuel efficiency – saving them money!

3. Help reduce their admin

Paperwork is my favourite part of the job,” said nobody, ever.

One of the best ways you can go about making life easier for your business drivers is to take away some of the laborious monthly admin work that’s associated with their driving.

Take mileage claims, for example.

In many companies, drivers have to block out half a day (or more) each month to go back over their diary and work out the distances they’ve driven, before submitting an expenses claim that may or may not be accurate.

How to do it?

Increasingly, there are tools that can automate many of the administrative duties your drivers currently face. Our telematics solution features a LogBook mileage capture feature, for example, which automatically generates mileage reports which are accurate and fully tax compliant. This can save drivers hours each month, and spare them from doing a stressful, menial job that they probably hate doing.

4. Show how changing driver behaviour can save them money in their own pocket

Ok, this might not seem like the most popular move. The idea of a driver behaviour program could throw up negative, ‘big brother’-esque connotations, particularly when we’re talking about fitting technology into a vehicle owned by the individual employee rather than the company.

But the truth is, far from being a way to just ‘keep tabs’ on your employees – a driver behaviour program can be be hugely advantageous to your driver, too. For starters, it encourages safe, conscientious driving and promotes a healthier attitude to life on the road. This alone reduces the risk of road traffic incidents (which are never good news) and could improve overall health and wellbeing by reducing some of the stress of driving.

Furthermore, when drivers develop good habits during their business driving, there’s every chance that those good habits will cross over into their personal mileage. This means that they’re saving on fuel consumption whenever they drive – not just at work. Let’s say an employee is being paid mileage on a fixed pence per business mile. Driving more efficiently will see more of that money end up in the employee’s pocket at the end of the month. This is another great way to sell the value of good driving behaviour.

What’s more, should an incident happen, you’ll have valuable data that could help defend the driver and develop a clearer picture of what actually happened – which could exonerate them from wrongful blame.

How to do it?

Consider introducing a driver behaviour program. This sounds like an unpopular move, but it can actually be done in a positive way if you build a program that balances carrot and stick. You can have things like league tables, with prizes and bonuses awarded based on good driving. This can really change the way these programs are seen – and further build a culture in which positive driving behaviour is encouraged as the norm.

Training is also a big help for drivers – as well as a crucial part of demonstrating that you’ve fulfilled your duty of care. There are plenty of professionals out there who are highly skilled and experienced to do it for you. Gov.uk offers a free tool to help you find driver training courses.

5. Provide them with technology that can help avoid traffic

Where studies have identified a link between driving and stress, they often point towards two factors which cause us particular inner turmoil: a loss of control, and unpredictability. Both of these feelings are epitomised by driving in traffic.

It’s certainly not a huge leap of faith to suggest that driving is more stressful when we have heavy traffic to contend with.

Luckily, modern GPS technology exists that can identify traffic issues in real time, and adjust your route to help you avoid those areas.

It’s a giddy, childlike feeling to have access to this kind of knowledge when others don’t; it’s also a competitive advantage that can help get your team to meetings on-time, when the competition could very well turn up late.

How to do it?

A Webfleet Solutions system in your vehicles will automatically identify traffic spots and adjust your route to go around them. Get in touch with our team for a consultation and to find out more about how telematics can help your business.

6. Avoid unnecessary meetings/journeys

We live in a connected world – and not all face-to-face meetings will be totally, 100% necessary. Near enough every mobile and desktop device will be fitted with a microphone and a high quality camera, which means that we can hold meetings via a range of solutions which can be every bit as personal and intimate as a face-to-face meeting.

Of course, there are times when a face-to-face meeting will be necessary – but there are definitely times when you can skip the meeting and hold a call instead.

How to do it?

Encourage your team to be critical when reviewing their appointments for the week. You could introduce an online meeting system to allow your team members to schedule meetings in advance.

7. Establish a culture of safety and consideration

‘Culture’ is one of those business buzzwords that’s becoming ever-popular; but it’s so important. Within a business environment, ‘culture’ can be loosely defined as a set of collective beliefs, values and attitudes. As social animals, we’re biologically wired to fit in and emulate the behaviour of the crowd – that’s why collective values are so important.

By encouraging safety and consideration as part of your business culture, you can create a powerful motivating factor for drivers to demonstrate these behaviours.

How to do it?

Educate drivers on good driving habits, establish an effective driving policy – and reward good driving behaviour as part of KPIs.

Thanks for reading

For many people, driving is a necessary part of life, and business.

As an employer, it’s important to ensure firstly that you’re fulfilling your legal responsibilities for driver and vehicle safety. But, also, we all want to make sure our employees feel that the company cares for them, their happiness and wellbeing.

Following the steps in this article would be a great starting point to make sure that staff feel supported and protected.

What do you do in your business to make sure your drivers have a happy, healthy life? Let us know in the comments.

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Driver management