Fleet Safety & Fleet Risk Management. They’re Two Sides of the Same Coin

Originally published in Fleet Management Weekly 2/07/2020

By Jim Noble, eDriving’s Vice President of Risk Engineering

Over the years I’ve met many fleet professionals who are extremely knowledgeable about fleet safety. Yet, I’m always surprised how many don’t regard themselves to be involved in fleet risk management. Effective driver safety is fleet risk management. And, it’s time for them to be recognized as part of the same mission.

While a focus on employee safety is always a positive, all too often companies concentrate solely on the safety processes that take place within the workplace. For example, the company might develop a view of known risks by using previous losses and incidents to identify risk. Compliance – while crucial – is often a safety priority, with procedures such as drug and alcohol testing at the forefront of activities. Typically, safety requirements and messaging are focused at middle management and the frontline, and safety might be described as a “core function”.

Risk management approaches risk in a more holistic way, by evaluating its causes and its solutions. With regards to driver safety, risk management not only considers the driver, but also the journey, the vehicle, management and risk tolerance. And, rather than focusing only on the front line (i.e., the driver), the responsibility extends from the C-Suite right through to the front line. It’s not just about the end game, it’s just as much about everything else that comes before it.

Traditionally considered a finance function, risk management is now incorporated much more heavily into operations. Yet fleet is the last area where a clear delineation and communication barrier between safety and risk management is still commonplace. The distinction disappeared long ago in property and workers health and safety.

Across all industries, risk management should form part of the strategic vision of the organization; not a division or an implication, but a critical component of the way the company operates. At eDriving we say that fleet risk management is part of an organization’s DNA.

But what does risk management in fleet driver safety mean in practical terms? In relation to the driver, it involves looking at factors such as the operating environment, vehicle types and cargo to determine driver experience requirements. It means incorporating driver requirements into the hiring process. It means establishing a safety culture and conducting assessments, then continuing to monitor driver behavior using leading indicators such as in-vehicle intelligence (telematics) and continuous license monitoring. Beyond this, it requires the control of emerging risk, such as cell phones and distractions, new technologies and evolving mobility trends. Not only that but the monitoring of health-related issues such as fatigue and wellbeing; even though “personal” issues like these are not always the easiest to assess and manage.

Thinking of the vehicles that employees drive, risk management involves evaluating vehicle needs based on the working environment and ensuring the specification of the vehicles is selected based on the risks associated with working needs. Factors such as collision avoidance, ratings and survivability are important when making purchasing/ leasing decisions. And, for the vehicles in use, risk management entails vehicle inspection/ reporting standards as well as out-of-service criteria and maintenance processes/ maintenance cycle evaluation.

Moving onto the trips made by at-work drivers, risk management considers where vehicles are operated, when they are operated, driving conditions (e.g., off-road, traffic volumes, inclement weather, etc.), “hot zones” (high crash areas) and litigious environments.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it goes beyond legal requirements and duty of care. Of course, risk management involves the introduction of policies and procedures, but it also involves safety management, quality assurance and security. It involves incident management and analysis, and intervention steps to reduce future risk. And not just for those in company-owned vehicles, but those in personal vehicles, too (often referred to as the grey fleet). Recent research conducted in the UK (by Driving for Better Business) revealed that around a third of employees who use their personal cars for work say they do not have vehicle insurance that covers business use and only just over a third say their employer checked their driving license. When you consider that approximately one quarter to one third of all collisions involve an at-work driver it reinforces just how much more could be done to improve driver safety if all organizations took a risk management approach.

Looking at how other companies manage risk is always a good place to start and determining industry best practices and achievements is a key element of a successful fleet risk management program. When your company does achieve results to indicate its approach is proving effective at reducing driver risk, don’t stop there. By its very nature, risk management creates an environment of continuous improvement; learning from both outside and inside what works and taking steps at every potential opportunity to reduce further risk exposure.

About Jim Noble
Jim has been associated with eDriving for almost 20 years as a customer, a consultant and as a team member. His 40+ years in transportation encompass leadership positions in fleet operations management, logistics management, advocacy, driver safety and global risk management. As lead Risk Engineer for eDriving he works to find innovative ways of harnessing the power of eDriving’s “Big Data” to produce actionable and easy-to-understand insights aimed at reducing customers’ risk profiles.