This is the second of our series of three articles on how fleet management can assist with more efficient running of an SME fleet.
The first article can be read here: Transitioning To EVs: 10 Key Questions SMEs Need To Ask Before Switching
THIS IS a true story.
Several years ago, a small business in Hertfordshire was expanding and recruited a driver to help with deliveries.
On the first morning, the employee received the keys to a van full of stock and went on his way.
Later that day the call came.
The driver had performed an illegal overtake to pass a line of stationary traffic approaching a junction and didn’t understand that the vehicles were behind a motorhome that was turning right.
Everyone escaped harm in the collision that followed, but the new employee left behind a trail of destruction and paperwork that took months to rectify and nearly destroyed the business.
He simply walked away from responsibility and the company, leaving the business with an £85,000 bill for damage to the van and motorhome. It got worse because the insurance company refused to cover the cost of the crash.
“We nearly didn’t make it,” the owner said. “We just didn’t have that sort of money, plus we had to replace the van, handle all the paperwork and try to keep trading.”
To borrow a quote from Lord Sugar to a line-up of Apprentice candidates, the ‘fatal flaw’ was failing to understand that there can be no shortcuts when it comes to safety.
Small business owners often believe that getting things done takes priority over doing things right, but it can be the equivalent of sprinting towards a brick wall where safety is concerned.
Fleet management is not just a box-ticking exercise: it has a fundamental effect on a business by making transport more cost efficient, reliable and effective.
RACE: Reduce Accidents, Costs And Emissions
So, although all companies have a legal duty to protect drivers and the public during work-related journeys, called a duty of care enshrined in the 1974 Health and Safety At Work Act, owners are actually in a RACE to build a better business as they Reduce Accidents, Costs and Emissions.
There is a widely accepted rule that a safe fleet is a cost-effective fleet as it creates a virtuous circle of business benefits.
With the right training, drivers have fewer incidents. This reduces insurance premiums and the hidden costs of disruption, such as repair costs, replacement vehicle hire, missed deliveries and appointments, lost business opportunities, management time wasted on related paperwork, employee absences – the list is almost endless.
Furthermore, because vehicles are driven more carefully, they use less fuel. For example, planning ahead on the road reduces braking and acceleration, which can improve fuel efficiency by 30% of more.
In turn, fuel efficient driving reduces vehicle wear and tear, as tyres and brakes last longer. There is also a reduced likelihood of breakdowns.
As vehicles are off the road for repairs less often, a company may not require as many vehicles.
In short, there is a cascade effect of business benefits from a commitment to fleet safety that far exceeds the management time and any costs involved.
A key problem is that benefits are often hidden when it comes to their impact on the bottom line. For example, the best salesperson in the business could actually be the worst when the cost and disruption of their accidents is taken into account.
Therefore, a starting point has to be establishing a clear picture of all fleet costs in a single place. This may require software or external support; there are various independent services dedicated to this issue, such as Driving for Better Business or RoSPA – see resources below.
With the right support, this critical first step is the foundation of building a safe and effective fleet that is fit for purpose and efficient.
The wealth of help and advice available focuses on three key areas of fleet management: the vehicle; the driver; and the journey.
These points are explained by Rivervale Leasing’s Jaymie Stanbrook in the panel below.
Tackling Duty Of Care Within Fleet Management
WHETHER you’re a company running a single vehicle or a huge fleet you have a duty of care to ensure employees do not suffer any unreasonable or foreseeable harm or loss in the workplace.
However your responsibilities do not end there and your duty of care extends to other road users and the public, writes Rivervale Leasing’s fleet management expert Jaymie Stanbrook (pictured).
Why Is Duty Of Care So Important?
The consequences to a business are critical if found liable as a result of negligence. At Rivervale Fleet we advise fleet operators to get digital and get up to speed on responsibilities, something our Driver Care product does for you very simply. As a starting point however we recommend breaking things down into three categories.
All company-owned vehicles must be right for the job intended and meet drivers’ requirements. Ensuring that the vehicle is safe for the driver is one area, but the public and other road users are equally as important. Daily maintenance checks and inspections are best practice. Vehicles owned by the company are considered a place of work, so health and safety rules apply. Understanding the use of the vehicle will help determine which vehicle is the best fit for the job. It is something we recommend getting help with.
- Fit for purpose – Ensure the vehicle is suitable and has the correct level of safety equipment
- Condition – Regular vehicle maintenance and inspections keep cars and vans efficient while protecting employees and the public
- Running costs – Review vehicle costs to benchmark across the fleet and highlight problems
Drivers need to be checked. Check licences, insurance (if they are driving their own vehicles does the cover include business use?) and also the individual themselves: are they fit for the job? Remember that these drivers represent your business. While some actions of the driver, such as parking fines or reckless driving will not be the company’s responsibility, there are instances that could be questioned such as speeding to meet deadlines or carrying heavier than acceptable payloads.
- Selection – When companies employ new staff who drive for work they need to ensure they are not recruiting risk
- Induction – Embed company culture with a focus on zero-harm
- Compliance – Regular licence checks and health assessments identify current and emerging risks
- Monitoring – Data-led analysis of driver performance identifies areas of improvement
- Training – Desk-based and on-road programmes improve employee skills
Planning reasonable journeys is a must. Do not set things up for your drivers to cut corners because targets are unachievable. How will vehicles be fuelled and charged needs full consideration as well as the distances covered in a typical day’s use.
- Driving data – Telematics data can revolutionise understanding of vehicle use and related costs
- Route planning – Companies need to consider if there is a correlation between journeys and high costs. Is this caused by the route, the driver or a combination of both?
- Drivers’ hours – Humans are not robots, so schedules for car or van drivers must embed understanding of what is possible and safe.
Book A Free Consultation
If you would like help with managing your fleet, book a call with our fleet management consultants.
For a small business, or a larger SME, this may seem like a lot of work, but it is a matter of perspective, as duty of care shouldn’t be seen as a cost; it represents investment in a more profitable future.
The fleet market is a world of leaders and laggards, and success stories prove that a fleet management focus on duty of care pays dividends for those that put safety first.
For example, one fleet slashed its costs by thousands of pounds after analysis identified that drivers weren’t slowing down over speed humps, which was causing thousands of pounds worth of damage to suspension systems.
Another fleet cut crashes by 50% and costs by 80% using telematics and proactive driver management.
With the right approach and a long-term commitment to putting safety first, businesses can make their fleet miles better. The sooner they start the journey, the quicker the savings and safety improvements will come.