Jo McDonnell's blog: Helping your drivers stay safe behind the wheel
19 June 2019
Jo McDonnell, UK fleet sales manager at BP Fuelcards, considers how you can help your fleet stay safe while driving for work
All employers have a duty of care to ensure that employees and members of the public suffer no foreseeable harm as a result of work-related activities. Whilst drivers have a duty to ensure they are operating their vehicles within the bounds of the law, you must equip your drivers with all the skills, knowledge and experience required before getting behind the wheel.
To do this, you should have a safety policy, frequent awareness raising schemes, as well as educate them around using mobile phones while driving, reducing driver tiredness, and driving in poor conditions. Being a Fleet Manager isn't all about saving money, and the cost of settling for a small amount of unplanned vehicle downtime is worth it for safe and happy drivers.
When writing your fleet policy, you should ensure you include key information about road safety for your drivers' reference. This should include legal information regarding road safety, speed limits, seatbelt restrictions, drink and drug driving, and eyesight requirements. Your policy should also outline the fleet's vehicle maintenance standards and procedures that must be followed.
Safety Awareness and Monitoring
Supplementing your safety policy with frequent awareness-raising schemes is an important and effective way of reinforcing driver safety standards.
Using telematics can also be an effective way of encouraging your drivers to stay safe. BP FleetMove Pro features OptiDrive 360, which gives active driver feedback and empowers your drivers to be safe.
Using Mobile Phones
There are severe consequences while using your phone behind the wheel. Using your mobile phone at all while sitting in the driver's seat is illegal - whether it's texting, calling, or using the internet. Even if you're using a handsfree, if you cause an accident while on the phone you could still receive a fine and points on your license.
If you're using your phone while driving, your stress levels may increase and pull your attention away from the road. Studies have shown that mobile phone usage while driving significantly reduces the amount of visual information you consume by up to 50%.
Driver tiredness accounts for 20% of all road accidents, with up to 300 people dying every year because of a driver falling asleep at the wheel. Around 40% of sleep-related incidents involve a commercial vehicle, and it's therefore essential your drivers are made aware of the dangers and warning signs.
Ignoring the signs of tiredness can push a driver into a 'microsleep', which will last between 2 and 30 seconds and often leads to an accident. Signs of tiredness include yawning, difficulty concentrating, heavy eyelids, eyes beginning to roll and head beginning to droop.
As a fleet manager, make sure you inform your drivers that they shouldn't try to fight off sleep if they feel tired. While it increases vehicle downtime, they should take a safe break when they can. It's also a common misconception that tiredness can be fought by turning up the radio, opening the window, or talking to a passenger. These measures are ineffective and whilst in an ideal world, you'd rather the drivers didn't stop, a small amount of unplanned stoppage time is always better than an accident.
Driving in Poor Conditions
The risk of heavy rainfall comes with a catalogue of sudden risks, including reduced visibility and aquaplaning. One foot of floodwater moving at 6mph is enough to float a regular saloon vehicle. Before setting out in rain, drivers should check their tyres are well inflated and windscreen wipers fully functional. They should drive slowly and gently, and not through deep water. If the vehicle begins aquaplaning and loses traction, ease off the accelerator and hold the steering wheel with a light grip.
The risk of high winds can be problematic for high-sided vehicles like lorries, but also just as hazardous for passing cars, cyclists and motorcyclists - other vehicles might be blown in your path. Before travelling in high winds, you or your driver should consider whether there is an alternative route to take with less exposure to dangerous crosswinds. Finally, drivers should maintain a good distance between themselves and other vehicles.