Road safety: it’s a culture thing

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Almost 900 people are injured in road crashes every week while driving for work, with driver error as a factor in up to 95% of collisions.

Effective fleet risk management can change even the most challenging and threatening habits among company drivers.

Driving is the riskiest work activity that most people do. Yet, too many companies are failing to meet their duty of care requirements when it comes to occupational road risk.

More than 45,000 people are injured on the roads each year while driving for work. That’s roughly one in four of the casualties on Great Britain’s roads. A report published this year by the European Transport Safety Council estimated 40% of road deaths in Europe to be work-related and concluded that employers must step up efforts to tackle this.

Specific risk factors impact people who drive for work. Fatigue, for example, is more likely to affect business drivers with high work-related mileage because of the situations in which they drive. And high-mileage and company car drivers are more likely than most to use a mobile phone while driving, often for work purposes.

This increases crash risk significantly; someone using a phone while driving is four times more likely to crash, regardless of whether they are using a hand-held or hands-free device. That’s because any phone use requires a driver to concentrate on two ‘thinking’ tasks at the same time.

Estimates tell us that 95% of all traffic collisions involve human error. Significantly, this tells us that up to 95% of collisions could be prevented.

Rewarding safe driving performance helps to create a safety culture. Photograph: iStock / monticello

A legal requirement

Extensive legislation applies to fleet risk management. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states employers have a duty of care for the safety of employees at work, as well as others who may be affected by their work activities.

Employers also have duties under road traffic law, and, if an employee is involved in a fatal collision in which there is evidence of serious management failures, a company can be prosecuted under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.

Additional EU laws apply to drivers of goods vehicles, which stipulate maximum driving hours and working hours, and minimum break and rest periods.

The thought of introducing fleet safety procedures can be daunting – particularly for smaller companies – but not doing so is not an option. As well as the legal requirements, there is a strong business case for an effective approach to managing driver risk.

Fewer collisions means less working days lost due to damaged vehicles and injury, fewer vehicle repair bills, lower insurance premiums, fewer missed deliveries and appointments, and an overall reduced total cost of ownership (TCO).

Successful fleet risk management also leads to improved employee safety, morale and behaviour behind the wheel. Above all, managing driver safety has a human impact. Every death on the road has a catastrophic effect on families. And every serious injury can be life-changing.

Having worked with fleets globally for over 25 years, we’ve identified the key components required for a crash free workplace – and it’s a ‘closed loop’ approach which we’ve seen successfully reduce collisions by up to 67% and TCO by 20-40%.

In brief, a closed loop risk management programme involves the creation of a safety culture, the collection and analysis of driver performance data, targeted provision of personalised risk reduction training and benchmarking. It’s on ongoing ‘loop’ of intervention. A continuous cycle of driver improvement.

New telematics and learning technologies have presented an incredible opportunity to evolve closed loop programmes, and organisations have never been better placed to change even the most challenging and threatening habits among drivers.

This takes us back to the 95% statistic. The latest driver training courses utilise smartphone and ‘micro learning’ technologies, interactive videos and driving ‘journeys’ to help drivers rethink the common hazardous attitudes and behaviours they may have adopted.

Reinforcing the core principles of defensive driving to employees who drive for work, even those not categorised as high risk, helps them to anticipate other drivers’ actions, identify threats before they become problems and avoid risky behaviour behind the wheel.

Sharing positive results with employees, rewarding safe driving performance and issuing company safety newsletters that reinforce a commitment to road safety all help to maintain a strong company-wide safety culture and instil safe driving habits in employees that they will take home with them. This helps to ensure that those who drive for work, as well as their families, make it home safely every day.

Workplace transport safety HSE guide here

Ed Dubens is Executive vice president at eDriving FLEET



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