Fleet special: back to school

Money, money, money ­ when it comes to vehicles in any commercial environment
you all know that they have a voracious appetite.

But with a few thought-through management procedures in place you can make
significant savings that can not only enhance your organisation’s profitability
but also prevent it from becoming exposed to a raft of potential legal pitfalls
which could cost it dear.

Although there are all sorts of options when it comes to vehicle acquisition,
maintenance and disposal, I am only going to concentrate on one aspect of the
vehicle dynamic for the purposes of this article, the nut behind the wheel ­ the
behaviour of the person driving the vehicle.

This will exert the greatest influence on how much that vehicle is going to
cost its owner during its life cycle.

Before we launch into the opportunities to influence driver behaviour for the
better, think on this. The motor car has been with us for a mere 125 years.

In that short time humans have had to escalate their physiological
development in a hitherto unimaginable timeframe to develop the control skills
that are required. Hardly surprising then that human error is attributable in
95% of all collisions on our roads.

We’re still getting used to the novel idea of taming this strange mechanised
beast. We are still fine-tuning our senses and receptors to cope with the
demands of this most popular of all forms of personal mobility.

Consequently we need to equip drivers with the ability to prevent their
vehicles from becoming lethal weapons and that demands a proactive stance on
driver training.

At this point there is a great temptation to enter the controversial ‘how we
should learn to drive in the first place’ debate but I shall resist and just say
that responsible employers are in a good position to compensate for the poor
standards of driving that sadly exist on UK roads today, for sound commercial

So how do we start the process?

First of all, know your problem. It could be one of several, but it probably
relates in most cases to the direct or indirect cost of vehicle collisions. Your
insurer, broker or accident management provider should be able to supply, and in
some cases interpret, the relevant data.

Once you have an idea what the problem is, and you are dead set on taking
action to resolve it, it is crucial to gain the support and commitment from the
board, trustees or other decision-making body in the organisation. Unless you
have support at this level you are doomed to failure.

You need a reputable supplier to help you decide on the appropriate
interventions and this will depend on numerous factors, such as the composition
of the vehicle fleet, specific insurance arrangements, the nature of the
business vehicle-related environment, whether union co-operation is required or
implications for contracts of employment.

Choosing your supplying partner is crucial. They should:

  • be able to offer a wide range of products and services, including help with
    developing relevant policies;
  • have a verifiable track record of success over time;
  • have courses that are, at the very least, recognised by the Driving
    Standards Agency;
  • preferably have some other form of academic accreditation;
  • only use qualified ADIs for any practical training applied (police officers
    will NOT do);
  • be flexible enough to create a programme of activities that suit your
    organisation’s needs.

Once you have agreed to the nature of the driver risk management programme, a
vital first step is to tell the staff why you’re doing it, what will actually
happen, and who is involved in the process.

After a couple of months you will need to evaluate the first phase with the
supplier to see if it is meeting expectations and introduce any fine tuning that
might be required to make the process more palatable for the participants or
effective for the business. Any supplier worth their salt will relish the
opportunity to discuss such things and suggest positive steps to further develop
the programme (see box).

With so many benefits on offer, some of them quantifiable on a purely
financial basis, it is staggering that so many UK organisations that run
vehicles as a key operational tool do not take advantage of what is on offer.

A professionally run, tailor-made driver risk management programme should be
cost neutral within two years. Beyond that, it should be saving you substantial
sums, and that’s before considering all the other benefits that come with the

What to expect from a driver risk management programme

If your development programme goes well, what can you expect? While no two
fleets will be the same and no 100% guarantee can ever be given, any of the top
UK driver risk management suppliers should be able to deliver:

  • an incident reduction rate of at least 20% from the benchmark figure in year
    one, rising to 35-40% in year two, (consider the attendant business disruption,
    staff absences, replacement vehicles and administration costs);
  • a resultant commitment from the insurer or broker to reduce, or at least not
    annually increase, premiums and excess levels thereafter;
  • fuel consumption reductions of at least 12% but, depending upon vehicle
    type, more typically 15-18% ;
  • tyre wear reduction in the region of 7-10%;
  • other wear and tear item expenditure savings of at least 5%;
  • a dramatic reduction in bumps and scrapes, the cost of which is usually
    unidentified as a result of being claimed through expenses rather than insurance
  • an improvement in vehicle residual values at the time of disposal due to
    being driven with more mechanical sympathy and consideration
  • in the case of non-company car drivers, the peace of mind that they are
    driving with more awareness and knowledge, despite being outside the control of
    the employer;
  • the reassurance that duty of care obligations towards both staff and
    customers are being met;
  • the peace of mind that the stipulations of the various existing pieces of
    health and safety-related legislation are being met;
  • the reduction in the chances of a serious collision happening which might
    result in negative publicity or, in the worst case, senior manager imprisonment
    and mandatory publicity orders admitting to management failings under the
    Corporate Manslaughter Act 2007 and Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008;
  • tangible proof of corporate social responsibility in action;
  • proven contributions towards reducing environmental impact and carbon

Steve Johnson is director of communications for
DriveTech (UK) plc, a member of the Association of National Driver Improvement
Providers and the Association of Car Fleet Operators.

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