In the wake of a BBC Panorama documentary highlighting the dangers of cognitive distraction among motorists, TomTom Telematics Director UK & Ireland, Giles Margerison, considers what road risk means for fleet managers and how it can be best managed.
More people than ever before are now being convicted for causing death behind the wheel of their motor vehicle – and the consequences of this for businesses can be severe.
Back in 2007, there were a total of 233 convictions for causing death by dangerous driving. That same year the offence of causing death by careless driving was introduced – and according to the Ministry of Justice, by 2013 the number of convictions for death caused by both dangerous and careless driving had reached 310.
In light of these statistics, and the alarming fact that around a third of all road traffic accidents are believed to be work-related, businesses need to take the management of road risk extremely seriously.
The long arm of the law
Employers, after all, have the same duty of care obligations for their mobile workers as they do for all their office site staff. The Health and Safety at Work Act requires them to ensure, so far as is reasonably practical, the health and safety of all employees while at work.
What’s more, the legal implications of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act should provide all the motivation needed for service fleet managers to ensure adequate road risk management systems are in place.
Courts can impose unlimited fines for Corporate Manslaughter convictions and the damage to a company’s reputation could have even graver implications.
As for field service employees, under sentencing guidelines a driver can face up to 14 years behind bars for death by dangerous driving.
The Health and Safety Executive’s advice is clear – companies should ensure work-related road safety is integrated into wider arrangements for managing health and safety at work. To ensure risks are effectively managed they must address their health and safety “policy, responsibility, organisation, systems and monitoring”.
Fostering a safety culture
Simply ensuring drivers hold valid licences and that their company vehicles have valid MOT certificates is not enough to ensure their safety. Beyond the introduction of a company-wide health and safety policy, organisations must strive to achieve a cultural shift among their employees to make sure policies are adhered to. This is where fleet management systems have a big role to play – helping enforce behavioural changes and significantly modifying driver attitudes.
On a basic level, telematics can be used to monitor the number of hours a driver spends behind the wheel and enforce a policy of regular breaks. This however is just the tip of the iceberg, with driver performance tools allowing managers to monitor the behaviour of their mobile workers – providing data on factors such as speed, fuel consumption and even harsh steering or braking.
A survey by road safety charity Brake discovered people driving for business purposes are more likely to take risks on the road than the general driving population. For example, more than half (54 per cent) admit speeding on 60mph limit roads, compared with 34 per cent of non-work drivers.
Helping the driver
What’s more, the importance of being able to monitor and act on such data was highlighted in a recent BBC Panorama documentary that examined the dangers of cognitive distraction.Professor Paul Atchley, Cognitive Psychologist at the University of Kansas, revealed that drivers using hands-free device mobile phones, for example, suffer from a mental workload and that reduces their ability to deal with hazards on the road, increasing the likelihood of crashes.
Telematics systems that automatically send job details and route drivers to customer locations via integrated in-vehicle navigation devices can reduce this mental workload.
In the office, managers can use the performance data to build accurate profiles for every driver and identify where their strengths and weaknesses lie, allowing training to be tailored to suit individual requirements. The opportunity to measure driver performance in a sustainable manner following training sessions also becomes a reality, protecting the business investment in meeting duty of care obligations.
Scotia Gas Networks (SGN), for example, reduced incidences of negative driver behaviour (speeding, harsh steering, braking or acceleration) from 1,600 a day to less than 400 after implementing teleamtics technology.
Although there can occasionally be resistance from staff with such systems involving in-depth performance analysis, this can be overcome if they are positioned correctly and implemented with employee involvement.
Consultations should be held with staff throughout the process and open lines of communication maintained. Incentives offered for improvements in performance can also result in healthy competition among staff.
By understanding their obligations and committing to road safety, service companies can stay on the right side of the law, safe in the knowledge they have secure business future.