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Richard Hipkiss's blog: Focusing on road safety

Date: 07 May 2019

To coincide with Global Road Safety Week (May 6-12), Fleet Operations' Richard Hipkiss looks at how effective road risk management can help companies keep their drivers safe and stay compliant.

The issue of road safety is once again high on the agenda in the corridors of power, with political leaders nationally and internationally seeking to reinvigorate somewhat stagnated safety campaigns - and save more lives in the process.     

For example, speed limiting technology looks set to become mandatory for all vehicles sold in Europe from 2022, after new rules were provisionally agreed by the EU in March.

Safety measures approved by the European Commission include intelligent speed assistance (ISA), advanced emergency braking and lane-keeping technology.

These would also apply to the UK, despite Brexit, and the EU Commission said it hoped the advanced measures would have 'the same kind of impact as when safety belts were introduced'. 

And on home soil, an inquiry has just been launched to scrutinise the government's approach to road safety.

This is in response to concerns from the Transport Committee that progress in improved road safety has levelled off. Despite a 40% reduction in fatal road traffic accidents from 2007 to 2012, there has been no reduction over the past five years. 

Lay the foundations

Despite being conducted on a daily basis, driving is still not seen as a core business function for many companies, resulting in a lack of a defined road safety policy. 

This is particularly true in the case of grey fleets. 

However, an employer's duty of care, underlined in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, extends to any vehicle driven for business purposes, including private vehicles.

This commitment is reinforced by the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, which requires every employer to carry out an assessment of the risks to the health and safety of all employees while they are at work.

With estimates suggesting that one in four reported road casualties result from accidents involving someone using the road for work purposes, road risk management is not only an issue of meeting legal requirements but protecting the workforce. 

No matter the size of the fleet, work-related road safety should be incorporated into a company's wider health and safety arrangements and be afforded the same level of scrutiny and enforcement. 

As a minimum, companies should have a 'driving for work' policy in place, conduct risk assessments and put measures in place to mitigate identified risks. 

But getting employee buy-in is essential for effective change and implementation. 

Strong leadership and regular communication are needed to encourage company-wide cooperation, to reinforce the company's commitment to road safety and to make clear the standards expected of all drivers. 

Making the change

All employees driving for work should be mandated to conduct vehicle safety checks. 

Companies should liaise closely with both company and grey fleet drivers, to ensure their vehicle is roadworthy and that the drivers' credentials, such as licence records, are valid and up-to-date. A best practice approach would be to carry out daily walk-around checks and to record inspections. For company cars, service schedules and MOT renewal dates should also be retained and effectively managed, to ensure vehicles are compliant. 

Offering helpful advice, such as how best to drive in adverse weather or the dangers on driving tired, will help reinforce the importance of road safety. Although it is helpful to set out this information in a driver safety handbook, staff communications, such as bulletins, and regular training, such as workshops, are vital for effective behavioural changes.

Identifying areas of risk should also be a key priority. Risk assessments should be carried out on all drivers on an ongoing basis, covering everything from hazard perception to the highway code. 

Companies should also seek to establish driver behaviour and risk ratings, insights of which can be provided by telematics data. Incidents, such as speeding or harsh braking, can be monitored and drivers scored on their performance out in the field. 

Training in action

Risk data can reveal pain points in a fleet but action is needed for any meaningful change to take place.

Once an issue has been identified, remedial training should be an automatic follow-up. This could include enrolment on an e-learning course, supported by internal communication specifically targeted at reducing risk in this area of concern. 

Other solutions include in-car training sessions and tailored workshops. 

For incidents that take place on the road, a root cause analysis should be carried out in each case, no matter the severity.

This will allow lessons to be learnt and for recommendations to be made on further action and training.  

All of these actions combined can not only help to keep drivers safe on the road but can have an impact on the company's bottom-line too, with reductions in at-fault accidents, reduced fuel spend, vehicle off-road time, and insurance premiums. 

With more proactive steps taken to address road risk management by fleet operators, the business community can also have a significant impact in helping the government achieve its safety goals.