Why safety must come first
Driver training programmes can help reduce accidents, downtime and costs but need to be part of a business’S broader safety eco-system to be effective. Curtis Hutchinson reports.
The statistics speak for themselves. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated the number of deaths from road traffic crashes in 2018 increased to 1.35 million. That equates to nearly 3,700 people dying on the world’s roads every day. Furthermore, road traffic injury is now the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 5-29 years old and is the eighth leading cause of death for all age groups.
The WHO’s Global Status Report on Road Safety 2018 found a disproportionate level of deaths and injuries borne by low- and middle-income countries. It also concluded that many of these countries are lacking legislation and enforcement to reduce the risks of speeding, drink-driving and the use of helmets, seatbelts and child restraints.
The global figures for work-related driving accidents are every bit as alarming. “It is estimated that work-related incidents make up 25% of the road toll, rising to 50% if commuting is included, equating to 38 work-related deaths on roads every hour worldwide,” says Colin Paterson, head of marketing at DriveTech, the driver training specialist that provides programmes for multi-national clients in over 95 countries.
Like all specialist trainers, DriveTech advocates the importance of buy-in from senior management to address driver safety as part of a broader safety culture.
“If the senior leadership of any organisation does not emphasise and talk-up safety on the road, or otherwise within their business, on a systematic basis then any driver training initiative will move slowly, or worse, apathetically,” warns Paterson. “The hierarchical leadership of an organisation should always act on facts as well as emotional triggers. Waiting for a tragedy to kickstart action is just not acceptable. We suggest that there are tangible and measurable facts that come to the fore to reinforce and embed road safety high on the business agenda.
“From mainly mandatory safety requirements, to key and measurable cost efficiency benefits, to an increasingly critical sustainability focus; these components should be part of the leadership focus around progressive road and driver safety,” he adds. “We don’t advocate waiting for a potentially devastating crisis to force a reactive programme to be rapidly imposed.”
The importance of establishing a top-down culture of safety is vital to improving driving standards through training, according to Anne Chidiac, senior consultant for business intelligence and consulting at ALD Automotive. The company operates leasing and fleet management services across 43 countries and manages 1.66 million vehicles, so has a lot of data relating to vehicle incidents and accidents.
“All company car policies should include a dedicated section on protecting their employees; they are first and foremost the most important asset of the company,” she says. Chidiac cites figures from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work showing that up to 40% of deaths on Europe’s roads are work-related, while 29% of all fatal occupational accidents involve vehicles.
“Providing regular safety training to drivers will help raise awareness about injuries on the road and how to protect oneself through good practices,” she states. “A good well-trained driver will be safe on the road and will know how to behave behind the wheel, avoiding excessive braking and using appropriate driver behaviour to reduce risks and fuel consumption.”
In addition to the human element, accidents and downtime are costly for businesses, which Chidiac maintains is an important consideration. “It may seem easy to calculate costs related to car accidents, but it only covers one part of the story. Costs are not only damages and insurance, they are also increased through the downtime of the driver, including potential sick leave, vehicle replacement and fleet manager workload – as well as damage to the company’s image and reputation,” she says.
Driver training should be considered a vital element of fleet management to protect staff and reduce these unnecessary costs, according to Rich Radi, director of product management at ARI Fleet, the US-headquartered fleet management company that operates 1.7 million vehicles across North America and Europe.
He cites America’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) research showing how motor vehicle crashes in the US are costing employers more than $60 billion annually. The average crash costs employers about $16,500 and jumps to more than $74,000 for a crash with injuries and even $500,000 or more if there is a fatality.
“Managing driver behaviour is key to building a culture of safety that improves overall driver performance and minimises collisions, downtime and corporate risk,” he says. “On average, approximately 20% of a company’s fleet will be involved in an accident each year and each incident results in substantial costs to your company.
“These expenses typically include direct costs such as medical bills and vehicle repairs as well as potentially significant indirect costs such as legal expenses, increased insurance premiums and lost productivity,” he adds. “These indirect costs are often a challenge to identify and even more difficult to measure, but still affect your organisation’s day-to-day operations and bottom line.”
Radi believes that every time a driver gets behind the wheel, the organisation they are representing is vulnerable to repercussions that go far beyond just repairing a vehicle if the company is not addressing safety and driver behaviour. “When you implement a comprehensive driver safety programme that proactively identifies and trains your high-risk drivers, you have the potential to reduce your crash rates by 40-60% or more,” he reckons.
Time for telematics?
The rollout of telematics is transforming the way driver training is delivered by enabling employers to prioritise which members of staff would benefit the most from it. This list would typically include those who have had accidents and high-mileage drivers, but should also drill down to include heavy brakers who are achieving poor fuel economy.
Arval, which operates 1.19 million vehicles across 29 countries, maintains that telematics, insurance, safety and driver training all need to be considered in the same eco-system. “Telematics is vital to successful driver safety programmes. We gather telematics data and we plan driver safety training programmes on the basis of the data analysed. We can expect a reduction of accidents of up to an average of 25%,” says Alessandro Pigazzi, Arval’s international business office director and global alliance manager. “Telematics-based fleet programmes cannot be seen as an isolated solution but rather as an enabler to make driver safety programmes more effective.”
Drivers of cars fitted with telematics are also likely to be more safety conscious, watch their speed and take regular breaks. “We find telematics helps reduce accident frequency and accident magnitude as well as reducing fuel consumption and downtime,” Pigazzi states. “Furthermore, by installing telematics boxes and monitoring the data, companies are able to take appropriate measures at managerial level to adapt their car policy in accordance with the results.
“Telematics needs to be part of a broader fleet safety and optimisation eco-system,” adds Pigazzi. He believes the starting point is having the right information on how drivers are performing on an individual basis and then linking that data to a safety programme based on driver training. “In our experience telematics has a positive impact on the reduction of fatalities, which is one of the main goals,” he explains.
The use of telematics is also advocated by ARI Fleet, with Radi saying its use is among the best solutions to help improve safety and, in turn, reduce accidents. “Telematics technology essentially puts you inside the vehicle with your drivers. A robust telematics solution can be leveraged to monitor driver performance and help identify high-risk behaviour such as harsh braking, rapid acceleration and speeding.
“When this telematics data is integrated into an advanced analytics platform, you can easily benchmark driving performance across your entire organisation to pinpoint high-risk drivers and highlight opportunities to prescribe corrective training,” adds Radi. “By proactively identifying and training these high-risk drivers you’re able to improve safety, prevent potential collisions and better control accident-related costs.”
If traffic accidents and at-work driving fatalities are to be reduced, fleets around the world have a responsibility to build and nurture a culture of safety throughout their organisations. Driver training is a powerful tool to address this but any implementation needs to have buy-in from senior management and should be an integral part of the corporate safety eco-system.
Global thinking with e-Learning
For some companies operating across international borders, e-learning is proving a useful way to establish and reinforce a safety culture amongst drivers.
Alessandro Pigazzi, for one, advocates its use as a good starting point and to reinforce ongoing driver training programmes. “We believe e-learning can be a useful first step for a company to instil a driver safety culture and can encourage staff to approach the subject in a less invasive way,” he says. “Companies using e-learning modules delivered through online platforms have the benefit of having a solution which is more globalised than an individual behind the wheel being trained.
“It is also a good introduction for a company that has never seriously approached driver safety,” adds Pigazzi. “We have seen how e-learning can enhance and spread the culture of driver safety within a company.”
The Arval man says a lot of e-learning is based around basic rules, which can work on an international basis as the dashboard will typically include universal safety KPIs. It also features an automatic assignment of modules that can be easily followed by the fleet managers. “Telematics can then be used to assess which staff need behind-the-wheel training because of their driving style and the frequency of accidents. This is a more targeted approach which works well for many fleets,” he says.
The use of e-learning is also encouraged by ARI Fleet when matched to specific driver weaknesses to improve behaviour. “Training should be personalised to the driver’s needs rather than generic training such as a defensive driving course. For new hires, this means first assessing their skills then providing targeted training to improve skills needing development,” says Rich Radi.
“For tenured employees, this means monitoring their driving behaviour and providing immediate, personalised training to address high-risk behaviours,” he adds. “For example, if a driver incurs a speeding offence, a speed management training module should be immediately assigned to the driver.”