Risk is the big issue for fleets in 2016*

Each year brings with it a new set of challenges and priorities. For fleet operators, the big issue in 2016 looks set to be risk.

Granted, risk has always been a major concern for any company with a vehicle fleet but now, in light of the recent increase in road deaths, it is being brought into particularly sharp focus.

Companies under pressure to take responsibility on risk

The most recent figures released by the Department for Transport (DfT) showed road deaths rose by four per cent in 2014 and serious injuries by five per cent.

Meanwhile, a pan-European research project conducted by TNS on behalf of Webfleet has found 65 per cent of Brits are less inclined to do business with a company if they experience their employees driving unsafely or discourteously.

So, the dual impact of increasing road deaths and ever greater customer expectations means businesses that do not adopt a best practice approach now are at risk of being left behind.

But where should companies start when looking to make an impact? We identify three areas for focus in 2016.

1. Mobile phones

The use of handheld mobile phones was made illegal in the UK in 2003 and fines can reach £2,500 for commercial vehicle drivers convicted of the offence. However, many people do not realise that using a hands-free device does not significantly reduce the risks and still causes drivers to become distracted. Research has found drivers speaking on phones are four times more likely to be in a crash that causes injury, whether on a hands-free or hand-held phone.

Furthermore, although hands-free phone use is still legal, a driver involved in a fatal collision could still be prosecuted for causing death by careless driving if it is found they were distracted by the hands-free device.

Consequently, it is important for businesses to develop clear policies on phone use and many are already banning phone calls completely while driving. To further ensure that their drivers do not have any means to text, use the internet or use apps while driving, other companies have decided to provide employees with basic mobile phones only. Whatever action is taken, a clear policy sets the tone for staff and reduces the risk of prosecution for the organisation.

2. Driver behaviour

Driver behaviour has long been viewed as one of the toughest areas to manage within a vehicle fleet but there are simple steps that can be taken by any fleet to quickly effect change in this area.

The first is to establish a culture of excellence in order to begin shaping employee behaviour from the minute they join an organisation. This might mean putting new staff through leadership and values training or simply providing all employees with the right to challenge a colleague on negative behaviour regardless of position or status. An atmosphere of open accountability where feedback is welcomed will help to model positive behaviour.

Gaining access to the appropriate data is also key. Modern telematics systems provide detailed information on all aspects of driving style, from speeding to harsh steering and braking, allowing companies to identify areas for improvement and provide targeted training.

But taking the first steps towards a data-driven approach doesn’t even necessitate an investment in technology. As a starting point, readily available information such as the number of incidents a driver is involved in, the amount of time vehicles spend off the road for repairs, the number and cost of fixed penalty notices and public complaints can all be used to quickly build a basic picture of driving habits. Technology can then be introduced as the next step towards best practice.

Logging data and monitoring trends offers incredible insight into field operations. All companies have the ability to adopt a data-driven best practice approach and those who do will steal a march on the competition.

Industry body Fleet Data Insight has produced a comprehensive guide providing insight into how best to manage driver behaviour.

3. Grey fleet

For too long, grey fleets have not been viewed in the same way as company-owned fleets. This is largely because of the perceived difficulty in taking greater control over an employee’s personal vehicle or simply that organisations forget staff driving for business purposes in their own car are in their duty of care.

A Fleet News investigation earlier this year found UK councils are spending more than a quarter of a billion pounds a year to keep grey fleet vehicles on the road. Such costs are difficult to justify when considered alongside the duty of care concerns that accompany grey fleet use.

A number of organisations are looking to alternative options, such as company vehicles or corporate car-sharing schemes, but those who continue to operate grey fleet vehicles must take greater control over the risk factors associated with their use.

This means it is essential companies conduct regular vehicle checks on any employee vehicles that are used for work purposes to ensure they are fully road-worthy. It is also important to keep records on required servicing, MOTs and insurance documents to ensure staff are keeping their part of the bargain.

To find out more about how you can manage risk within your organisation in order to contribute towards improved employee safety and reduce cost, why not check out the following resources?

*The content of this blog post is general and thus not meant as a substitute for legal or risk management advice specifically directed at your business and taking account of the particularities of your situation. Always consult a qualified professional before making decisions about your risk management strategy and/or the compliance of your business with legal obligations.

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