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Comment: How to keep your drivers safe and fleets protected post-lockdown

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Chris Black, commercial director at LeasePlan UK, looks at how fleets should deal with the emergency of new health and safety hazards as lockdown measures ease.

Chris Black, commercial director at LeasePlan UK

Chris Black, commercial director at LeasePlan UK

As a fleet manager, the safety of your drivers is always priority number one. You are responsible for keeping your business fleet protected and mobile at all times, ensuring that each driver has the necessary tools and training he or she needs to carry out their job in a secure and efficient manner.

It can be a daunting task, particularly when you consider the severity of the health and safety risks involved. What’s more since the start of lockdown at the end of March, roads across the UK have become increasingly hazardous environments. The number of reported speeding incidents, for example, has gone through the roof. In London, the number of motorists caught going above the speed limit this April went up by 71% compared to the previous month’s figures.

And the potential dangers don’t just lie behind the wheel. There are more pedestrians and cyclists around than ever before, as people find alternative ways to travel in a bid to avoid public transport. There are also a growing number of vehicles on the road now that lockdown is over and things return to the old ways. Drivers need to recognise these new dangers and the potential consequences their actions could have.

Navigating this new world will be challenging for fleet managers, but it is crucial to the safety of everyone – not just the driver.

Here are some top safety considerations that should be front of mind when managing a fleet during this time, and any potential changes you can adopt to keep your drivers safe and your fleets protected.

Set clear expectations: Taking the time to set the right policies and procedures, and communicating these clearly across your fleet, is an essential part of managing a fleet today. Anyone who is driving for your company should understand exactly what you expect from them. This should include details of what you will not tolerate, such as speeding, failure to perform vehicle safety checks and taking medication that may affect driving.

As brand ambassadors, every colleague contributes to the reputation and overall success of the business, so it is crucial that their actions reflect your company values.

Ensure you are fulfilling your duty of care: Fleet managers have a duty of care not just to drivers but to everyone on the road. Therefore, all vehicles should be checked regularly to ensure they are safe and fit for purpose. Mandatory MOTs for vehicles in England, Scotland and Wales are now back in place as of 1 August, so make sure you book a test where necessary to ensure they meet safety standards.

You should also check in with your drivers to see how their needs may have changed over the course of lockdown, and to address any concerns around health and safety they may have.

Prioritise education: Many drivers are lone workers, which means they only see their colleagues for an extremely short period of time during the working week. Face-to-face training is therefore beneficial on two fronts: it provides drivers with the crucial skills they need to carry out their job, and it allows fleet managers to build relationships with their team. Training should be ever evolving, rather than just the mandatory courses, and should take into consideration the latest developments in the industry.

Lockdown has taught us the value of webinars and online tools, so take advantage of these where possible. However, they should not be a substitute for face-to-face sessions. Similarly, it is better to provide shorter but more frequent training sessions, rather than doing a half day or a full day’s training, as engagement levels are likely to be higher. Toolbox talks are a great way of providing a bitesize training on a specific topic.

Avoid the blame game: Too many drivers tend to blame other drivers for any accidents, rather than asking themselves what they could have done differently. Even if you are not directly responsible for an incident, for example, if someone goes into the back of your vehicle, you should still ask yourself, “Was that avoidable?” Fleet managers need to instil this mindset across their team and train them to be aware of the other drivers around them and the errors they might make.

Use the data at your disposal: Monitoring the performance of your fleet is a critical part of any fleet strategy. Fleet software such as telematics have a massive part to play, but only if you are using your data. Sticking a black box in your vehicles will not reduce accidents; you need to be having proper conversations with your drivers based on the data, with clear learning points and objectives.

Every action has a consequence

While drivers may be the ones on the front line, improving the safety of the fleet has to be a whole company effort. Fleet managers and drivers need to work together, building a strong and health working relationship based on a firm understanding of a company’s values.

At the very core of this understanding is the recognition that every action has a consequence. Fleet managers need to be encouraging their fleet drivers to think about their own actions and the potential consequences they may have, not just for them but for all those around them. What happens if I speed? What if I am not sleeping properly and I am tired when I get to work? These are the sort of questions every fleet driver needs to be asking every day they turn up to work.

For more information on how to keep your drivers safe and fleets protected, check out LeasePlan UK’s latest Lifting the Lockdown webinar.

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