By carefully assessing factors such as the type of vehicles used for work purposes, drivers’ attitudes to road safety and data from vehicle telematics, employers can target their driver training to maximise the chance of reducing the risk of collisions and eliminating the danger their drivers pose to other road users.
We’re all aware of the legal and duty of care requirements that driving for work entails, but what’s the best way of approaching this and ensuring compliance?
Implementing solutions without a deep understanding of the issues relevant to your individual organisation is ineffective and inefficient. Gaining visibility of your company’s individual risk profile and quantifying each risk will make deciding on appropriate, proportionate and effective solutions more straightforward. It’s time to take control of road risk.
While an employer’s obligations are clear, the environment in which businesses operate isn’t always straightforward. Photograph: Drivetech
Driving for work is one of the most dangerous daily activities an employee can undertake. With more deaths occurring from at-work road trips than at the workplace itself, a study on behalf of National Highways and the charitable partnership RoadSafe (2022) found that nearly one third (29 per cent) of all road fatalities and 21 per cent of all casualties occur in driving-for-work collisions. All road deaths are preventable and, as employers, we all have an obligation to bring these stark figures down – which we can with better risk management.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE 2014) is clear on an employer’s obligations: “The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires employers to take appropriate steps to ensure the health and safety of their employees and others who may be affected by their activities when at work. There will always be risks associated with driving.
Although these cannot be completely controlled, an employer has a responsibility to take all reasonable steps to manage these risks and do everything reasonably practicable to protect people from harm in the same way as they would in the workplace.”
Navigating an evolving landscape
While an employer’s obligations are clear, the environment in which businesses operate isn’t always straightforward. We’re experiencing a huge amount of change as our economic and automotive landscape rapidly evolves. For example, we’re seeing a substantial increase in the use of light commercial vehicles for home delivery (these are generally higher mileage drivers) and a general reduction in the number of company cars.
Each driver experiences their own level of risk but gone are the days when you could approach this as a one-size-fits-all. Photograph: iStock
Many people now work from home most of the week and are taking advantage of salary sacrifice schemes (an employee benefit) to purchase a vehicle more tax efficiently (these are generally lower mileage drivers who occasionally drive for work purposes), or are part of the grey fleet (where personal vehicles are used for business purposes). In fact, according to the Office for National Statistics, around 40 per cent of working adults reported having worked from home at some point in the past seven days (Feb 2023).
Each driver experiences their own level of risk but gone are the days when you could approach this as a one-size-fits-all. So, how do we measure and quantify the risk for these different driver types and offer tailored and therefore more effective solutions?
It’s important to take a holistic approach, looking at the full range of driver circumstances before acting. Once you have a complete picture of your fleet profile and related risk, you can follow this up with a blended range of assessments and interventions that meet your specific requirements.
Four steps to taking control
There are four steps you can follow to ensure you direct your resources effectively (see figure 1 below, The Risk Management Process Model).
Step 1: Identify and analyse how you manage occupational road risk
Knowledge is power. Begin the process with an audit of your organisation’s ‘driving for work’ activities – this should include the following types of measure:
- How many vehicles and what type?
- How and where are they used?
- Are they fit for purpose?
- What type of incidents occur and how many?
- What policies and procedures do you have for safe working when driving?
- How experienced are those who drive for work?
- Are there wellbeing concerns around your drivers?
- Is the employee fit to drive for work?
Step 2: Assess risk
Firstly, decide who to assess. It is considered that higher mileage drivers should take priority when it comes to assessing risk, as the risk of fatigue-related incidents is extremely high. However, there is also evidence of an increased risk where people drive much less frequently. People who drive for work experience stress in two key areas: when under time pressure and when driving in unfamiliar circumstances.
It’s likely that all drivers should be assessed but may require different assessment types depending on the activity. The most powerful and compelling evidence for risk lies in the employee’s own driving behaviour and history.
Nick Butler: "It is vital to regularly monitor and review progress while maintaining your process of assessment and interventions."
When assessing risk, evidence shows these points are the greatest predictors of increased road risk:
- Driving licence check – most drivers with endorsements are repeat offenders
- Driver incident history – often a predictor for further incidents
- Telemetry data – real time and ongoing observation of driving style; recording incidents such as speeding, harsh acceleration, cornering, and braking.
This type of assessment is useful for evaluating your employees’ road safety knowledge and gaining insight into their attitudes:
- Knowledge assessment – this assesses road and vehicle knowledge
- Psychometric assessment – measures the worker’s attitude towards risk.
Step 3: Controlling the risk
Now you can see and understand your risk profile you can choose how to intervene to mitigate risks appropriately. Where a lack of knowledge or poor attitude towards the subject is discovered, there are a range of interventions to address the issues. A blended approach, offering e-learning modules, workshops and webinars is shown to be effective at lowering risk and demonstrating your duty of care as an employer.
High-risk drivers could represent up to 10 per cent of your driver population. So, where there is a combination of high-risk results from a variety of inputs – such as licence, telematics and psychometric assessment – there’s no substitute for on-road training. Moreover, when an attitude problem is present in a high-risk driver, this must be addressed urgently with a skilled trainer.
A professional trainer will help the employee realise the potential impact of the risk and encourage them to strive for better driving without compromising core safety and personal values.
Step 4: Monitor and review
It is vital to regularly monitor and review progress while maintaining your process of assessment and interventions. This will allow you to see what’s working and what’s not and adjust your programme accordingly:
- Keep a record of data showing which interventions are most effective, giving you return on investment
- Be prepared to change processes if they aren’t working.
As well as ensuring legal compliance, proactively managing and reducing your on-road risk has business-wide benefits:
- Saves lives – driving safely lowers the likelihood of being involved in a collision, making our roads safer for all
- Saves money – fewer accidents equal lower repair costs and less vehicle downtime
- Protects your reputation – unsafe driving, particularly in branded vehicles, can be damaging to a company’s image. Upskilling and coaching drivers will mitigate this risk and help protect vulnerable road users.
Keep looking ahead
The landscape around us will continue to evolve, as will your business, so it’s vital your road risk management strategy is always adapting too. It should be a continuous loop of assessment, action and review to capture and manage risks in the most effective and efficient way.
Understandably, it can be an overwhelming prospect for some businesses that may not have the resources internally to dedicate towards risk management. Where necessary, an organisation can employ the expertise of trusted and proven partners at each step of the process. You can outsource all elements of driver risk management or select the services where you feel there are knowledge or resource gaps in your organisation. Don’t delay, take control of road risk today.
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Nick Butler is director at Drivetech
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