10 key steps to an international fleet safety policy
No one is against safety but putting in place an effective safety policy can be tricky. We list 10 key steps to ensure fleet safety is more than idle talk.
In most companies, regardless of where they are located, driving is likely to be the most dangerous activity employees undertake in the course of their working week. Risk levels may vary widely from country to country, but the human and financial costs of collisions are universally dramatic. No surprise then that many multinationals establish a global fleet safety programme. Implementing such an ambitious policy is fraught with difficulty, but there are common themes between successful programmes.
1. Understand the fleet landscape
Each company is different and there are no off-the-shelf policies. For your policy to be efficient, you need to understand how vehicles are being used and who uses them. Importantly, you also need to know the movers and shakers in the company as you will need to get them on-board.
2. Ensure senior management buy-in
A lasting safety culture starts at the top. Every layer of management, from the global CEO to national company bosses and local managers, has to support the commitment to fleet safety.
At the same time, drivers should never doubt the company’s attitude to safer driving. Operational requirements, e.g. the number of stops or visits a driver is expected to perform, should not conflict with safety rules.
3. Build a business case
A global safety programme will devour time and resources, so build a business case to justify the investment. And don’t forget to focus on the positive consequences of a safer corporate environment for both employees and the company itself. Elements in the business can include the financial benefits of fewer accidents (lower repair costs, cheaper insurance, improved fuel economy, avoiding productivity loss and damaged cargo); duty of care responsibilities and legal compliance; and honouring corporate social responsibility to staff and the wider community.
4. Adopt a team approach
Every relevant department has to respect the safety programme of different departments besides Fleet. HR has a say over topics like eligibility, Sales and Operations may have operational expectations, Finance has to foot the bill. Companies with high-risk activities in particular, e.g. in the oil or mining industries, will also have a dedicated Safety department, which should also be on board.
5. Accept local differences
Setting a single global programme for safety improvements is doomed to failure. But laying solid foundations that driver safety is critically important and that business decisions should support this, should be a unifying, global theme. The overarching principles, purpose and style should be the same regardless of geography.
Differences in local realities, however, require a safety policy that allows for technicalities to be differrent. For instance, drivers who need to drive on dirt tracks in the outback of Australia or in rural parts of Africa may find it useful to follow off-road driving training.
Other differences need to be taken into account as well, like road conditions, behaviour of other drivers, dealing with law enforcement and local attitudes to mobile phone use and drink driving.
6. Use technology
Telematics systems provide fleet managers with data about driving behaviour and they can be complemented with a dash cam that record what’s happening in front of the vehicle and even a second camera to register the driver. There are also ways to block smartphones when a vehicle is moving.
Such technological features can help reduce accidents, which in turn leads to lower damage repair costs. In general, companies that implement telematics record a strong drop in damages and incidents of speeding, making the business case clear. However, communication is vital if a company wants to avoid accusations of 1984-style Big Brother.
7. Train your drivers
Driving training should address behavioural issues, increase defensive driving skills and encourage people to engage in e-driving. Your drivers already know how to handle their vehicle, but do they know how to do it safely and sustainably?
Driver training can be offered online, in one-on-one coaching or in group sessions. Dedicated technology companies also offer short modules on driver’s smartphones that are linked in real time to that driver’s behaviour.
8. Carrot not stick
Drivers must engage in this process, and rewarding good behaviour is more productive than punishing poor performance. Drivers need to understand that the safety programme is designed to protect and not persecute them. Set measurable targets, such as an improvement in fuel economy (from a gentler driving style), or a reduction in incidents of harsh acceleration and braking (from telematics data). Some companies run league tables that reward the best-performing drivers.
9. Select safer vehicles
Vehicles in Europe typically meet high safety standards, and vehicles in Asia and South America are now often better equipped, too, even though they may still not include all safety options. The Global New Car Assessment Programme urges fleet buyers to go for vehicles that score a five star rating. In Europe, the Euro NCAP car safety assessment standard also looks at pedestrian safety and driver assist technologies. There is a reason for that, so include these parameters in your vehicle benchmarking.
10. No finish line
There’s no finish line in a risk management programme. It’s a constant campaign to reduce risk and keep safety as the highest priority within the corporate culture. Use all available data to measure the effectiveness of the policy, and keep striving to reduce the number of collisions and claims, both locally and globally.
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