Ignore driver safety at your peril
Statistics show the estimated economic cost of road crashes in Australia is $27 billion per annum.
Driving is one of the riskiest work-related activities, with around 20–40% of workplace deaths in industrialised countries being associated with road crashes. Safe Work Australia reports that 39% of worker fatalities were due to a vehicle collision (2003 to 2015). When you consider that around 30% of vehicles on Australian roads are driven for work-related purposes, managing road risk should be a fundamental part of an employer’s legal and moral duty of care towards its employees and members of the public.
With human error to blame for approximately 95% of vehicle crashes, fleet managers are under mounting pressure to not only identify risky driver behaviour but also take preventive action.
This is where the use of telematics technology can help. When installed on a vehicle fleet, the technology can make it easy for fleet managers to identify and expose at-risk drivers and take corrective action before a crash occurs. The data captured with the technology can be used for:
- vehicle tracking and location monitoring;
- monitoring driver movements, status and behaviour;
- identifying at-risk drivers (ie, those who speed, use harsh braking, harsh acceleration, etc); and
- identifying distracted drivers.
Telematics technology is claimed to be able to reduce safety-related incidents by up to 50% and, while installing telematics does involve an initial investment, many organisations report recouping the initial outlay in safety-related cost savings within a 12-month period.
“A well-known Australian logistics company has seen its accident rate per 100 vehicles drop from 44 to 19 in less than a one-year period since using MiX Telematics to monitor their drivers. Average cost per vehicle (through improved driver behaviour) has also reduced from $1214 to $438 in a two-year period,” said Lara Churton-Hughes, head of sales and marketing Australasia at MiX Telematics.
By being proactive, organisations can identify at-risk driver behaviour, take corrective action to manage those drivers and, in doing so, prevent a crash from occurring. Instructor-led driver training as well as online driver training can help reduce crash risk across fleets. It is also possible to monitor drivers (through the use of an in-vehicle camera) to determine whether they are fatigued or distracted.
There are a growing number of companies using driver-safety bumper stickers on their fleet cars as a safety strategy. Churton-Hughes stated: “This is becoming a growing trend and in fact we have clients who are using this [strategy] across South Africa and Papua New Guinea. This method of garnering feedback on driver behaviour from other motorists is simple yet effective, and we encourage other organisations to use bumper stickers to get feedback on how their drivers are performing on the road.”
Managing distraction and fatigue is becoming more of a priority than ever, with 15% of road fatalities having been identified as fatigue-related crashes in Australia alone.
Mobile phone usage while driving is a growing problem and one that doesn’t look set to go away any time soon. In fact, ‘phone usage while driving’ has overtaken ‘people not wearing seatbelts’ as one of the major causes of fatal car crashes.
Vehicle maintenance also has a role to play when it comes to ensuring fleet safety. Vehicles need to comply with roadworthiness requirements and procedures need to be put in place to ensure that maintenance records are kept and maintained. With telematics, maintenance alerts can be set up to keep fleet managers one step ahead of the game and, in doing so, make it possible to manage preventive maintenance schedules across fleets.
It’s also important for companies to effectively manage the risk associated with grey fleets (where vehicles are being used by employees who do not belong to the company). Organisations need to ensure a policy is in place for grey fleets that includes guidelines regarding use of private vehicles for business journeys, outlining vehicle suitability requirements and annual driving licence checks as a bare minimum.
The most efficient and competitive fleets are those whose drivers and vehicles operate safely.
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