A future in which advanced driver assistance systems are increasingly common does not mean there’s no longer a need for fleet managers to improve safety.

That was one of the messages to emerge from the Brake Fleet Safety Conference 2018.

Delivering the keynote speech, Andy Price, director of Fleet Safety Management, told delegates that the recent move by the European Commission to make a range of car safety systems mandatory, including autonomous emergency braking and intelligent speed assistance, did not mean managers could relax.

He said, “I still think there’s going to be a role for us to do some effective fleet risk management.

“The EU’s 2030 goal is to halve road collisions – that’s a lot of deaths and injuries in the interim period.”

Price said that the big three issues with fleet safety were speeding, fatigue and distraction, with drink driving and failure to wear seatbelts less prevalent.

On speeding, he said, “Some of the technology proposals in the European Commision’s work will help, such as intelligent speed adaptation, but actually we can manage this now. Records management company Iron Mountain has effectively eliminated speeding from its fleet by using telematics data looking at exceptions, looking at the trends and having managers sitting down with the drivers and understanding why.

“They now have 0.4 speeding incidents a vehicle every week, so they’ve effectively eliminated the problem without technology other than telematics.

“I know some of you will have telematics on your fleet. If there is a will, this is something that can be managed now.”

Price said that fatigue was another area where there were steps managers could take to improve the problem, although coming technology would help.

“What are we doing to stop drivers having a long working day, then having to drive?” he said. 

“This is something we can manage. It’s not easy, but we can put systems and audit processes in place, and can manage this.”

Price said mobile phone use was a major issue when it came to driver distraction.

“The younger generation see driving as a distraction from their smartphone rather than the other way around,” he explained.

“Some phone manufacturers are starting to put features in that detect whether someone is driving, but they are overrideable, so it’s all about attitude and change not requiring someone to use their phone, but also them not wanting to. And that’s the big issue as everyone has a smartphone now and many of us are wedded to them.”

Price said organisations needed to make sure their operational requirements for drivers did not conflict with safety policies. 

“If a driver is told to do something operationally and told to do something from a safety point of view, operationality almost always wins, so we have got to get those two policies and practices aligned,” he said.

“That’s probably the most important thing organisations can do to start with.”

Price questioned how many fleet managers were including potential management failings in post-collision reviews.

“I think the most important thing to do is ask what have we done as an organisation that has contributed to that collision happening,” he said. “If you just say ‘We’ll train the driver’ they are likely to still have that crash or other colleagues are likely to have that crash as well.”  

Price said that until fully autonomous cars arrived, good fleet risk management would still be needed.

“Technology is going to help a lot, but it’s going to take time for that technology to penetrate into a significant proportion of the UK fleet,” he said. “So there are things you can do now.” 

When asked during a panel discussion session why fully autonomous cars were needed, TRL director Richard Cuerden said they would eventually deliver safety benefits that were not available elsewhere.

“When you look at autonomous vehicles, they offer a predictable controlled environment where we can take human error out of the system,” he said. “You are probably going to see something like 20 to 40 or 50% casualty reduction when that becomes available. 

“To get that step change in casualty reduction, autonomous vehicles really offer that which no other technology does.”

Speakers were also asked about the effects of Brexit on road safety legislation, but said they expected the UK to remain aligned with the EU.

Department for Transport senior engineer Phil Bailey said, “There’s not a desire to create divergent standards.

“There’s a desire for a vehicle to get one approval and not have to get multiple approvals in different markets. But work is ongoing.”