Sergio Barata, general manager, EMEA at transport software specialist Telogis, discusses how operators can use technology to create a culture of safety across their fleets
A recent study from the European Transport Safety Council has found that up to 40 per cent of road deaths in Europe are work-related. For anyone who drives for a living, or business owners and managers who send workers driving out in the field, this is a worrying figure.
Most organisations will have safety targets in place, but this responsibility can often fall upon one person’s shoulders – such as the safety officer or fleet manager. Even if the organisation has a whole team dedicated to safety, they are often categorised into their own silo, away from the rest of the organisation.
The reality is, safety needs to be a consideration across the entire organisation – from HR and operations, to finance and beyond, all business units have a role to play in safety. Those organisations that have the best safety records tend to put safety front and centre as a part of their culture.
There is a strong business case for taking a more holistic approach to safety. Organisations with strong safety credentials typically perform better. They have less downtime, for both drivers and vehicles, as well as lower insurance and compliance costs. This is where technology, and in particular Mobile Resource Management (MRM) software, has an important role to play.
Improving driver behaviour to reduce unsafe practices
MRM provides real-time visibility of vehicles and how they are being driven, giving organisations a complete picture of how they can manage risk and create a culture of safety across the entire organisation. It helps monitor for unsafe driving practices such as speeding, dramatic acceleration or hard braking.
This insight allows them to set an appropriate course of action such as disciplinary action or ongoing coaching to help improve behaviour, in the event of safety breaches.
Driver coaching also benefits from MRM technology, using apps to give drivers real-time feedback and advice using in-cab alerts –providing them with training they need, when they need it.
MRM also helps to manage driver workloads most effectively, to ensure they aren’t inadvertently overworked and have opportunity for appropriate rest periods throughout their shift and et the end of the day. With estimates suggesting fatigue is the cause of more than 1,000 accidents per year in the UK, it’s in everyone’s best interest to ensure drivers are well rested.
Creating a culture of safety through gamification
A key element to vehicle safety is ensuring drivers take responsibility for managing their own safety behind the wheel. Having the right infrastructure to facilitate safe driving behaviour is the first step, but as the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. A little friendly competition (or ‘gamification’) is an effective way to help incentivise drivers using MRM tools to improve safety.
Gamification encourages participation by introducing a scoring system for performance metrics such as fuel-efficient driving, vehicle idling and safety. The scoring system allows drivers to level up or receive rewards for good performance, and it also allows drivers to compare scores against each other (in the form of leader boards) and against company objectives.
It’s not just about getting a high score, it’s also about helping employees develop and grow in their role, seeing their progress and ensuring they buy into the company’s safety practices.
Ensuring the vehicles are safe and reliable
While performance behind the wheel is a key factor of safety, another key element is ensuring vehicles are safe and roadworthy. For managers, this means making sure they are maintained regularly, while for drivers it means checking the vehicles on a daily basis. Daily vehicle checks are not just a box ticking exercise for compliance; they help identify any issues which could put the driver, vehicle or public-at-large in danger.
Examining key external components of the vehicle, including its tyres, steering, brakes, and lights could prevent an accident. There are ways to make this easier for drivers. Tools such as mobile-enabled, paperless Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports (DVIR) allow drivers to complete this entire process using their mobile device – eliminating paperwork, automating compliance and helping drivers get on with their day job.
Respect is key to good culture
Not all drivers are convinced by the role of technology in their vehicles. A recent report from the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) has found that despite the fact that 95 per cent of drivers are happy to share their data with a third party if it helped to diagnose or prevent faults, 44 per cent are uncomfortable sharing data on their driving behaviour and performance.
Clearly, there must be a balancing act between respecting privacy and encouraging driver safety, but the benefits far outweigh the costs. There are companies across the country that are already using MRM successfully to greatly improve their safety performance and create a culture where safety is a priority.
Clear communication and respect for employees is the key to getting the balance right and achieving best results. Those that do and consult with employees will see the benefits in terms of improved safety, productivity and compliance, and be at the forefront of the industry.