A FLEET’S strength lies in two places, its vehicles and its drivers. When both work 100% efficiently, profits stay healthy and everyone is happy. But when one, or both, falter that’s when the impact on your fleet’s bottom line starts to show. And as Bluedrop Services, specialists in motor fleet insurance discuss, when accidents on the road do occur questions inevitably surface about driving behaviour.
So while damaged fleet vehicles can be repaired (for a price) how do you combat the affect that driving behaviour has on your business’s bottom line? After all, drivers (for now at least) are human, and humans, as we all know, sometimes make mistakes. But when that mistake happens behind the wheel it’s often the fleet itself, not the driver, who is ultimately accountable. In the majority of cases that accountability reflects in the bottom line.
Understanding driving behaviour
To better appreciate the toll that driving behaviour can take on a fleet, it’s first necessary to understand the psychology that unfolds when a driver gets behind the wheel.
Fleet driving is by nature a very solitary occupation. Once you start that engine and roll off the forecourt you’re essentially on your own. Unlike in an office you don’t have a team around you, nor a boss keeping an eye on your every move. You are, for all intensive purposes, out of sight.
This lack of visibility fuels a feeling of unaccountability. Which, for some, paves the way for driving behaviour that is less than satisfactory. Putting the fleet vehicle, the driver and other road users at risk. Ultimately such behaviour starts costing the fleet owner anything from increased fuel expenses and repair costs, to sick pay, legal fees and reputational damages. All because of misjudged driving behaviour that could, with the right training and technology, be avoided.
Reintroducing accountability: the key to combatting driving behaviour
The answer to improving driving behaviour is to address the issue of driver accountability. One solution would be to assign a co-driver or passenger to every fleet vehicle. But, this is neither a cost effective response, nor a safe one. Not only will you double your employee overheads, but another person in the cab can ultimately prove distracting to the driver, leading to a lack of concentration that could reinforce bad driving behaviour.
The only viable way to effectively address driving behaviour in your fleet is by introducing a form of monitoring technology in each vehicle. This allows you to obtain an accurate and irrefutable record of a driver’s performance. Giving you a unique insight into where driving behaviour is affecting overall fleet outgoings.
Furthermore, with the driver aware that his or her every action is now being captured and reported back, the temptation to engage in risky (or outright dangerous) driving behaviour is reduced. Not to mention, in the event of an accident (naturally a proportion will be unpreventable) the fleet manager has an evidential record that can be used to vindicate the driver from blame.
Devices that measure driving behaviour
Go back 10 years and the idea of installing detection equipment in a fleet would have seemed unthinkable. However, a lot has changed in the last decade. With technology now more intertwined in our everyday lives than ever. Some may say the act of monitoring your drivers promotes a lack of trust, or instils a ‘Big Brother’ culture. But this mind-set is fading fast, and the vast majority of fleet drivers now welcome technology that offers them greater protection while doing their job.
Most driver-tracking technology comes in the form of telematics. So if you’re unfamiliar with this term prepare to start hearing it a lot. Simply speaking, telematics is the general label for technology that monitors data in real time and transmits it electronically. In the automotive industry telematics covers everything from dash cameras and GPS devices to accelerometers that measure speeding, idling, and sharp braking. All of which can help fleet managers build up a greater picture of their fleet’s performance and road efficiency.
The fact is it doesn’t take a vehicle collision, or a failed MOT to start costing your fleet money. Even bad habits in driving behaviour can result in your business overheads rising exponentially. But the sources of your extra outgoings can be identified, and tackled, once you have an efficient telematics system monitoring driving behaviour in place.
Assessing the data and implementing action
So, once you have your telematics up and running, the next step to stamping out costly driving behaviour affecting your fleet’s bottom line is by analysing the data and implementing solutions.
Much of what the data reveals can be tackled via driver training. And of course with your telematics in place you’re able to see which drivers are the worse offenders. Targeting your efforts at the source.
Some of the most common driving behaviours known to affect fleet outgoings include:
Idling (or keeping the engine running while not moving) isn’t just bad on the environment, it’s an expenses drain too. One that’s estimated to cost the average fleet thousands of pounds in wasted fuel each year, as well as prematurely aging a vehicle’s engine. For most fleets, idling is the second highest known output affecting their bottom line, with fuel accounting for around 30% of a fleet’s overall running costs each financial year.
Hard-braking & sharp acceleration
Both hard braking and sudden acceleration are indicators of aggressive driving behaviour. They point to the driver either not leaving enough braking distance, or taking too long to react. Both increase the risk of a collision, not to mention the premature aging of brake cables and pedals. And, just like idling, repeated hard braking and accelerating ultimately results in excess fuel consumption too.
Speeding is another indication that a driver is exhibiting aggressive driving behaviour. Not only is speeding against the law, it’s also damaging to your fleet’s reputation, and presents a health and safety risk. Not just for your fleets own drivers but also to other respective road users too. Not to mention, if a driver routinely speeds and eventually loses his or her licence your fleet then has to suffer the repercussions of suddenly being a ‘man down’. An eventuality that could compromise delivery lead-times and client relations.
Taking a tough line on bad driving behaviour
While installing telematics systems within your fleet is the first step towards improving driving behaviour. The results gleaned from your data capture should be used to adopt best practice guidelines within your organisation. So, when you introduce telematics technology to your fleet, be prepared to follow through and take a hard line on drivers who repeatedly offend.
As well as training initiatives another way fleet managers successfully tackle unsatisfactory driving behaviour is through the use of incentive schemes. Often offering rewards to those drivers who do adhere to good practice is just as (if not more) effective at bringing about results versus coming down hard on those that don’t. So consider positive reinforcement measures you can also implement within your organisation’s structure if you want to cost save on driving behaviour in the long term.