It’s easy to get your priorities wrong. We all do it. And in a time of tight budgets, when you are fighting to keep costs down, difficult choices have to be made; they are called judgement calls and they go with the territory for any fleet manager or fleet business owner.
There is also a fine line between safety and savings, a trade-off that is a major issue for transport companies. Unnecessary expenditure on safety is a waste of resources, but under-expenditure and poor quality control can lead to big problems. Add fuel management into the mix, and you have the makings of a perfect storm. These are tough calls to make and you can argue that there is no right or wrong way.
But consider this. The three trends that are currently high on everyone’s list in the commercial fleet management business are alternative fuels, using vehicle tracking to reduce fuel costs and applying technology to solve ‘micro’ safety problems e.g. using sensors and cameras to eliminate blind spots, and using vehicle CCTV solutions, such as Smart Witness, to record accidents.
And with fuel being in the top three expenses, along with vehicle depreciation and salary, it’s no surprise that this is one area that businesses are really trying to home in on and control. But the safety trend is interesting. The overall safety culture appears to have taken a back seat to fuel consumption. And this surely can’t be right.
Look at the latest evidence.
- The Fuel Matters 2014 study, by Shell, reveals the main driver for using vehicle telematics to improve driver behaviour is the potential to reduce fleet fuel consumption not to improve safety.
- The impact assessment of the forthcoming HGV speed increase from 40mph to 50mph, which reveals the increase will likely lead to an additional two to three fatal accidents and four to nine serious accidents per year, while saving the haulage industry and Government millions in fuel duty
- In the Fleet Answers 2014 Telematics Survey, fleet leaders ranked the benefit of increased fuel savings highest, with safety coming in fifth.
But you don’t have to follow this trend. It is possible to look after safety while also cutting costs.
As we said in a previous blog Rethinking Road Safety, a cultural shift in the focus of road safety is needed, with fleet operators adopting a more driver behaviour focused safety ethos. Embracing this approach will enable businesses to foster a safe and efficient culture which will lead to a reduction in accidents and cost. That was two years ago and today we believe the argument is even stronger.
The argument is simple, safe drivers are more efficient drivers. They don’t accelerate rapidly, reducing fuel consumption and they don’t brake harshly, which increases vehicle life.
A study by SAFED showed that the average driver reduces fuel consumption by over 10% following fuel-efficient driver training.So with overwhelming evidence for driver behaviour having a significant impact on fleet operating costs, why are some fleet businesses not prioritising driver safety?
We believe the typical fleet owner or manager is often caught in the middle of a cultural, financial and political struggle, fighting against the forces of habit, economics and legislation. And focusing on short-term gain, instead of long-term sustainability, can tear the fabric of an organisation, not just from a structural point of view, but its very culture and values.
Thankfully, there is another way and if you look around the road transport industry, there are shining beacons of driver behaviour safety cultures, often led by fleet managers empowered by knowledge to make a dramatic improvement in driving safety. Vehicle tracking systems provide an unbiased evaluation of every manoeuvre of every driver, so fleets can engage in a proactive and preventative safety program.
Management commitment, cultural change and employee buy-in are all key elements to successful implementation of a telematics solution. Ultimately, though, it starts with individuals brave enough to buck trends and see the bigger picture.