Driving down the death toll through improved road safety

Road safety has been a cause for concern in recent years and those in positions of power, along with campaign groups, have worked tirelessly to reduce the number of collisions on our roads. 

But despite best efforts, progress has stagnated over the past decade. 

In its annual report examining road casualties in Great Britain, the Department for Transport (DfT) revealed that 1,752 people were killed on our roads in 2019, compared to 1,784 in 2018 – a reduction of just two per cent.

This number is similar to the levels seen since 2012, which followed a period of substantial reductions in fatalities from 2006.

Now, a new report has revealed further insight into the demographic of road collision victims. 

According to a study from Highways England and RoadSafe, nearly one third (29 per cent) of all road fatalities and 21 per cent of all casualties occur in driving-for-work collisions.

Managing road risk is vital for all businesses who operate a mobile workforce and these latest stats serve to underline the importance of improving standards. 

Here, Fleet Operations/TraXall UK examines how fleet managers can raise the bar in health and safety out in the field, and ensure that managing road risk is a top business priority. 

Shining the spotlight on all drivers

Driving may be a key function of many businesses, but road safety policies are still a grey area.

Often, there is a disparity between what is expected of company car drivers and employees who use their own car for work, but companies cannot afford to be lax about rules, regulations and guidance.      

The number of grey fleet vehicles on our roads – privately-owned vehicles driven for work purposes, which are not owned, leased or rented by employers – significantly outstrips the number of company cars.

There are 14 million-plus privately-owned vehicles driven on work-related journeys, compared to around 940,000 company cars on the UK’s roads, yet grey fleet management is, more often than not, overlooked or ineffectual. 

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.

From fleets of one to fleets of many, work-related road safety should be subject to the same level of scrutiny and enforcement as onsite health and safety arrangements. 

Creating a clearly defined road safety policy that is applicable to all drivers is therefore a vital first step, with a ‘driving for work’ directive, regular risk assessments, and stringent measures to mitigate identified risks among the essential components.  

Businesses should remember that road risk management is about more than fulfilling legal obligations. It is a commitment to the safety of the workforce. Every employee deserves to return home safe. 

Consistency and co-operation is key

Companies may have the best of intentions but managing road risk is an ongoing process that demands a consistent strategy and employee co-operation. 

Measures aimed at lowering road risk, such as conducting vehicle checks and offering road safety advice, should not be ad hoc or intermittent and should be centred on employee buy-in. 

The message should be driven home that the company is dedicated to improving road safety, and protecting its workforce, and that the same level of commitment and high standard is expected from employees. 

Companies should liaise closely with both company and grey fleet drivers to ensure their vehicle is roadworthy and that drivers’ credentials, such as licence records, are valid and up-to-date. 

Businesses may look at introducing simple measures, such as mandating all employees to conduct vehicle safety checks, including daily walk-around checks and regular inspections.

This will not only help to identify any early warning signs of safety compromises, but will reinforce the concept of shared responsibility.     

For company cars, service schedules and MOT renewal dates should be retained and effectively managed, to ensure vehicles are compliant. Companies may want to take the additional step of keeping the aforementioned information on file for grey fleet drivers too, so that they have a complete overview of their fleet and any discrepancies are easily flagged.   

All employees should be encouraged to voice concerns over the safety of their vehicles, and work in tandem with the company to ensure all appropriate measures have been taken. 

Offering helpful advice and guidance, on topics such as driving whilst fatigued or stressed, via regular communications, workshops and training, can ensure that the issue of road safety is not just confined to the often-underutilised driver safety handbook. 

Don’t overlook the warning signs 

Forewarned is forearmed so taking a proactive approach by identifying the key areas of road risk for the unique fleet population is fundamental. 

Risk assessments should be carried out on all drivers on an ongoing basis and companies should also seek to establish individual driver profiles and risk ratings. 

Telematics data is central to providing these insights, with incidents out in the field, such as speeding or harsh braking, recorded and directly reported to the fleet manager or back office.    

Evidence needs to translate into action, however, for changes in behaviour to take place. 

Remedial training, on an individual or company-wide basis, can set drivers on the path to better habits and driving styles. 

These can take the form of e-learning courses, in-car training sessions, tailored workshops, or internal communications campaigns. 

Introducing an element of gamification, such as performance league tables, may also improve engagement and evoke a sense of comradery. 

It is not enough to be proactive in your response to road risk. Being reactive – by taking stock and accounting for how and why mistakes were made – is equally as important. 

All incidents that lead to an accident should be subject to a root cause analysis, so that lessons can be learned and recommendations made on further action and training.  

Companies often have limited resources but this should not prevent risk from being effectively managed.

There are portals on the market that can help companies more easily identify and manage risk.  By using an outsourced risk solution, such as that offered by Fleet Operations/TraXall UK, companies can eliminate laborious processes and protect their resources, allowing focus to be redirected to other areas, such as improving the bottom-line.

The solution includes services such as licence checking, risk assessments, policy agreements and e-learning for company and grey fleet drivers, with companies receiving valuable insights and actionable feedback.    

Beyond road risk

The benefits of managing risk extend far beyond keeping drivers safe on the roads. 

There are a myriad of reasons why companies should concentrate their efforts on improving road safety, not least the positive impact on the company’s bottom-line.

Effective road safety management can see businesses experience minimised downtime, a fall in at-fault accidents, improved insurance premiums and a reduction in fuel spend.

Furthermore, putting the health and safety of all workers at the heart of operations can help cement the business as a conscientious, prudent and responsible employer – and help differentiate them from their less diligent competitors. An added bonus in an increasingly competitive climate.   

To learn more about Fleet Operations/TraXall UK’s risk management system, contact one of our experts at advice@fleetoperations.co.uk.

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