I’ve read a number of reports that indicate that risk management sits at the top of the fleet agenda in 2012. Reflecting back I’m fairly sure it was also at the top of the agenda in 2011 and 2010 as well.

Yet ask most people who work within the fleet market and they will tell you, and I believe quite rightly, that in the current economic climate its cost saving that tops the agenda for fleet operators. (But I’ve only seen one survey that reflects this).

So why do many surveys and reports conflict with what everyone is saying ‘on the ground’?

I believe it’s because risk management actually sits at the top of many fleet managers’ to do list, and this is something quite different.

What sits at the top of our to-do list is usually an item that hasn’t yet been done, and needs ticking off. I believe this is skewing the responses to many surveys because when asked what is your biggest priority, most people immediately think of the item that they have left festering too long and need to get on with.

But if it’s been on some people’s list since 2010, does this mean they see it as a priority or does it actually demonstrate that, in actual fact, many people still see duty of care as an irritation that keeps raising its ugly head.

As an advocate of fleet risk management and driver training, you may be shocked to hear me speak in such negative language.

But all too often, we at E-Training World sit in front of fleet operators who do see it as an annoyance, who wish to tick the health and safety box so that (in their words) they can achieve compliance as fast as possible and at minimum cost so that they can get on with running their fleet, and who have left it sitting at the top of their ‘to do’ list for a number of years – each time thinking, “this will be the year I actually do something.”

What’s ironic is that these same fleet managers are often under huge pressure to reduce their cost base. But as risk management gets forced, once again, down the list many are fire fighting the number of accidents their drivers are having, coming under pressure from their insurers and justifying spiralling fuel bills to their board of directors.

It’s like that cartoon of the army General in battle who is firing tiny arrows at his enemy but losing the battle badly. A sales chap is standing behind him with a huge Bazooka and the General is saying, “Can’t you see I’m busy – I don’t have time to see any sales people right now.”

When the surveys come out next year as to what’s the main priority in 2013, I’d like to see something else at the top of the fleet agenda as opposed to risk management appearing yet again.

That will tell me we are making progress and that it’s actually been actioned and is under control. But I fear that it will probably appear again. Not as a priority, but something that yet still sits on the to do list.

Follow BusinessCar on TWITTER.