How to keep your fleets safe post-COVID


With the UK government having announced its roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions in England, firms can now begin to prepare for a return to business as normal. Safety should be at the forefront of those plans, especially for commercial fleets who, for the past 12 months or so, it has been a decidedly mixed picture.

For some fleets, the pandemic has seen workloads increase, with online shopping deliveries booming, and millions of vaccine doses in need of imminent transportation. For others, lockdown measures have seen volumes collapse, with employees either furloughed or told to work from home, leaving thousands of vehicles out of action.

The Fleet Industry Advisory Group (FIAG) has recognised the impact COVID-19 is having on the safety and compliance of vehicle fleets, spelling out some of the challenges that must be addressed moving forward:

●     Drivers working from home are not using vehicles from one month to the next, which risks many vehicles becoming unroadworthy.
●     Restricted servicing and MOT facilities throughout 2020 meant fewer drivers had their vehicles checked.
●     An increasing number of fleet managers are being furloughed, made redundant or taking early retirement, meaning a loss of valuable in-house knowledge and expertise on matters of vehicle fleet management.

FIAG chairman Ian Housley says the first thing that companies must do is recognise these challenges and include vehicle fleet management as a key component of any pandemic recovery plan.

“As well as protecting the considerable investment made in vehicle fleets by employers it will help improve operational efficiencies, reduce costs and make driving safer,” he added.

The good news is that lots of firms are already tuned into this need to prioritise fleet safety. A survey of 600 haulage operators by the Road Haulage Association revealed how 30% of firms fear a lack of roadworthiness testing availability will restrict their ability to recover from the crisis.

However, firms need to ensure they’re not cutting corners on safety as volumes start to increase and vehicles are brought back into service. In fact, FIAG believes the situation provides a one-off opportunity for businesses to get to grips with road safety, which shouldn’t be passed up.

It suggests that many firms have “historically turned a blind eye to the avoidable and unnecessary costs associated with the management of vehicles and drivers''.

This has resulted in high costs, many of which could have been avoided. But, with rising unemployment levels and the challenges on margins increasing, FIAG stresses “there has never been a better time to get it right”.

Better driver management, improved systems and reporting and proactive driver engagement can lead to savings of around 15% within the fleet operation, according to FIAG. Vehicle and associated costs add to significant business overheads and drain profits. But, never before has it been more important to drive down those costs.

So, how can firms ‘get it right’ with their fleet management post-COVID? We take a look at some of FIAG’s recommendations, as part of its new ‘Road Safety Pays Dividends’ report, while adding in a few of our own.

Road safety recommendations for fleets

A good place to start is ensuring you have your commercial insurance in order. By having a single insurance policy which covers all of your vehicles at once, you’ll be saving time and often money. This means, instead of having to coordinate different insurance policies for different vehicles, you can focus on keeping your fleets safe.

First off, let’s take a closer look at the FIAG guidance, which largely centres around understanding your responsibilities and take the necessary action:

Provide a strong business case for improving fleet management

The fact of the matter is, to properly commit to improving the safety of your fleet, is going to come with a cost. But simply doing nothing will prove even more costly.

FIAG makes that point more strongly: “The vehicle, the driver, the journey is a collective bundle of enormous costs, which if not managed properly, could result in the failure of a business – lost jobs and lost investment.”

It leads with the following stat: for every £1 invested in the management of work-related road safety, a minimum of £5 will be returned.

Therefore, a proactive approach to work-related road safety is required. So, when making the case to the heads of your business about greater investment in fleet management, make sure your argument is a compelling, stats-based one.

As with any business case, you will need to make points succinctly and convincingly. FIAG suggests you lead with ‘true cost of a crash’, which is far more than just the cost of repairs. To work out how much vehicle crashes can cost your business if drivers are not properly managed, simply multiply your commercial insurance premium by eight, FIAG says.

With more direct and focussed management of drivers, many of the following costs of running a fleet can be drastically cut:

●     Own fault crashes
●     Excessive fuel use
●     Vehicle abuse
●     Excessive wear and tear
●     Driving offences like speeding and parking fines
●     Avoidable vehicle downtime
●     Driver stress-related absence
●     Loss of company reputation, customers and contracts

These are costs which can threaten the operational and financial viability of a business – at a time when firms simply cannot afford to be incurring avoidable hits to their bottom line.
A yellow speed camera placed high above a road in-front of a tree

Understand health and safety responsibilities

COVID-19 has made all businesses more aware of their legal duty to ensure that they’re doing everything they can to keep their employees fit and healthy.

However, many firms still don’t fully understand the full extent of their responsibilities when they ask someone to drive as part of their work, FIAG suggests.

“The task of driving is no different to any other work-related task and therefore the same legal (and moral) duty of having in place suitable arrangements to manage health and safety applies,” it stresses.

This is true whether or not driving is an employee’s main duty i.e., their daily routine involves driving from one site to another, or they are driving their own vehicle (grey fleet).

So, firms must go above and beyond to show that they are acting according to their responsibilities. If not, the Health and Safety Executive could come knocking should one of your vehicles be involved in an incident on the road.

Here’s a checklist of things you need to do to ensure compliance with H&S regulations: 

●     Put policies in place which include driver safety, vehicle safety and journey planning.
●      Adopt a systematic approach to managing work-related road risk, i.e., plan-do-check-act.
●     Carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment.
●     Provide adequate information, instruction, training and supervision to drivers.
●     Issue all drivers with a driver handbook and related policies.
●     Ensure driver performance is monitored and managed.
●     Ensure all vehicles used on company business are fit for purpose, well maintained, regularly serviced and appropriately insured.
●     Ensure a senior figure is given responsibility for managing work-related road safety.
●     Put a process in place to periodically review your management of work-related road risk.
●      Track your vehicle crash/collision frequency rate.

It’s not unheard of for companies to be taken to court charged with health and safety offences through failing to manage their drivers. That’s the last thing you need, especially as you try to recover from the effects the pandemic has had on your business. Now is the time to be proactive on the matter so you don’t have your day in court.

With that, it’s time to move on to looking at some of the measures you can take to minimise your risk as a business and keep your fleet and your drivers safe.

Adopt telematics technology to monitor driver performance

FIAG highlights that 20% of drivers are responsible for 80% of fleet maintenance costs. Bad driving can cost your business hard, so steps need to be taken to monitor and improve driver performance.

Telematics systems allow you to automatically gather data, revealing how drivers are acting when they’re behind the wheel: when they brake, when they accelerate, how smoothly they turn and so on.

Partnering with a reliable telematics provider means you can get all this information without having to physically extract the data yourself. Armed with this knowledge, you can start encouraging drivers who are showing bad driving habits to change their ways.

Offer incentives for safe driving

While telematics will reveal those fleet drivers who could be putting a strain on your bottom line, that’s often the easy bit. The tricky part is giving drivers compelling reasons to do more than fulfil their basic obligations. But for the sake of your business and their safety, you should persuade them to make positive changes to their driving habits with the offer of incentives.

This requires an understanding of the metrics that matter and then providing perks or bonuses based on them. Perhaps you could offer to pay someone more when they drive efficiently? Not only will this reduce your work-related road safety risk, it will mean you’re spending less on fuel – everyone’s a winner.

Or you could insist that everyone take semi-regular breaks, which would show up in your telematics. Research shows that drivers who don’t take breaks will put themselves and their vehicles at risk – but they often feel required to do so in order to keep on top of their workload.

Plan journeys meticulously

One of the few upsides of lockdown for fleets has been less traffic on the roads, meaning fewer accidents and hold ups. But, once things return to normal, the roads will once again go back to busy pre-COVID levels.

Journeys should be planned meticulously to time and miles on the road. When drivers feel like they have to make up time, that’s when those bad driving habits start creeping back in and accidents can happen.

So, make sure that drivers are equipped with the latest sat navs so they can receive real time traffic information that will allow them to avoid the hotspots.
A person map reading to plan a journey

Make time for driver wellbeing

For some drivers, they’ve barely been able to take a breath during the pandemic, having seen their workload increase in order to keep up with the demand for some goods and services. This might have taken a toll on their mental wellbeing.

For others, who might have been furloughed or been made redundant, they might be struggling with the prospect of going back to work either because they’re anxious or they’re worried about their safety as the restrictions are lifted.

It’s crucial that your employees have an opportunity to talk to someone on a regular basis so that they can air any concerns and seek reassurance.

Perhaps you’ll need to give them some time off, raise their pay, or change their schedule. While it’s not always possible to improve someone’s outlook, of course, showing you care about them and their safety can go a long way.

Obtain commercial insurance to keep your business moving

The key right now is to keep your business moving in the most efficient way possible. Whether you’re running a fleet of cars, vans or trucks, having a single commercial insurance policy which covers all of your vehicles at once is a great way to save time and often money.

Insurance Choice offers fleet insurance policies that can be tailored to the specific requirements of your fleet, keeping your business on the road.
Fleet insurance policies can include cover for:

●     Comprehensive or Third Party only
●     Goods in transit
●     Haulage or own goods
●     Mixed fleets
●     Trailers

Why should you choose Insurance Choice Commercial?

At Insurance Choice Commercial, we understand the pressures that small businesses and fleet managers are under.

We can tailor cover to your specific requirements and offer flexible payment solutions, spreading the cost of insurance over monthly installments to help you manage your cash flow when times get tough.

Not sure what type of cover you need? Talk to our friendly teams today.

Get a quick quote with us online today or simply call 01384 429900 to find cover that will keep your business moving.

Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.