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Date: 18 December 2013   |   Author: Jack Carfrae

Cash or crash 

There are cases where the fleet manager sets the wheels in motion with a programme, but freeing up the cash from upper management can slow the whole process down, leaving drivers and the company exposed for longer if the training is really needed.

Gradden has experience of such schemes being held up because the individual driving the programme has to wait for longer than expected until the funds are available.

"I have seen delays. There have been cases where companies have said 'right, we know we need to do this but it needs to fall into next year's budget'," she says.

The idea of buying into some training might also be something that's construed as far too costly by cash-limited SMEs, or at least perceived to be something that's the preserve of larger, blue-chip companies. If you're a business running a fleet of five vans, for example, you might automatically assume it's something that just doesn't apply to you.

There are options open to a small business with a limited number of drivers, some of which have the capacity to throw up decent results because of their more intimate nature.

Gradden explains: "It wouldn't be too expensive to do a one-to-one training programme and you could get good results out of that.

"With online assessment you can capture the attitudes to risk and responses and expand on that. It's quite useful as a low-cost exercise."

Hurdle argues that the cost really isn't a barrier to businesses, even at this level: "The idea of training being expensive is a myth - £30 per driver per year is not a lot of money. For a small firm with five vans, you'd spend that on a buffet at the board meeting to review driver training!"

The reality is, though, that's it's an area where training is much neglected, which goes some way to explaining the shortfall, as Gradden concedes: "We have quite a few SME programmes in place but they tend to be more around compliance. [Small companies are] certainly an area where training is less likely to happen."

ICFM's Graham admits that you really need to be managing the drivers independently at this level, and a training course, for small firms, probably isn't the answer: "It's an old-fashioned answer but if I'm the owner of a small business then I should be managing [the drivers]. You need to be micro-managing that sort of thing."