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RISK MANAGEMENT: Employees driven to distraction

Date: 11 December 2013   |   Author: Jack Carfrae

There's a lot of tech in an average fleet vehicle, which also means a lot of distractions. With road deaths rising and the ever-present threat of the corporate manslaughter act, Jack Carfrae examines how to keep drivers' eyes on the road.
There's a lot of tech in an average fleet vehicle, which also means a lot of distractions.

Imagine yourself in a typical company car, say a Ford Mondeo, that's a decade old, and picture how much equipment even a well-specced one would have. If you were pushing the boat out, it would have come with satnav and perhaps a phone connectivity system. But what about 3D Google mapping? A hard drive for films and music? Internet?

Now do the same for a mobile phone. We'd well and truly passed the blocky, remote control stage by that point and you may well have had a colour screen, but the iPhone didn't appear until 2007 and no-one knew what an app was.

Accident levels on UK roads increased last year after falling consistently and much of that rise is being attributed to the fact that drivers simply have too much in front of them when they're behind the wheel. That's a big worry for fleet operators because every driver with a modern car and phone is potentially more of a risk. So how do you manage it?

There is a wealth of well-documented tools available to the corporate sector designed to make drivers safer on the road and give businesses greater control and influence - telematics and driver training being the obvious options.

The more you know

There is always a cost attached to those elements, though, and according to the managing director of Fleet Risk Consultants, Nigel Grainger, you can't beat a bit of old-fashioned reporting to identify the problem areas.

"It's about good accident reporting above everything else," he says. "Have a simple form that charts exactly what happens. Then, if you need to, use telematics to back that up. There's a cost attached to that, but remember that analysing your accident data is free."

Speccing a vehicle correctly from the off and being mindful of what is and isn't essential for drivers can nip the problem in the bud and remove distractions before they even start.

"[Fleets] need to be mindful of what is a genuine safety initiative in a vehicle and what is a gimmick to create a unique selling point," says managing director of E-training World, Graham Hurdle. "Adding more detailed imagery into satnavs, for example, is pure temptation for a driver to look at the screen rather than the road."

Grainger agrees that you can stop the problem before it starts: "You don't want to be speccing stuff that's going to add to your woes as a fleet manager. You don't need access to the internet when you're driving. Don't try to overcomplicate what is essentially a box on wheels."