Every year, around 1200 people are killed on Australian roads, and the impact from road accidents is estimated to cost the Australian economy at least $27 billion annually.
There’s a number of steps you can take that could help you reduce the chance of road accidents occurring within your fleet.
1. Get managerial buy-in
Your first job is to explain the extent to which accidents could impact your business operations. For example, as well as the human cost of injuries and deaths, accidents can lead to:
- Increased insurance costs
- Vehicle downtime
- Lost productivity
- Employee sick leave
- Missed sales
- Lost or damaged stock
If you can generate interest in the highest level of your company, it will make your job easier – managerial buy-in means everyone in the business is singing from the same hymn sheet.
2. Write a road risk policy
If your employees use vehicles for business purposes, you have a legal obligation to have a written road risk policy which you should make available to them through a proper induction. Make sure you also periodically assess employees to establish they are still medically and legally capable of driving.
This policy should look at your vehicles and drivers and how they are used. We recommend it contains straightforward language to set out objectives for reducing accidents and outline how this will be achieved.
The document will serve as the cornerstone of your accident reduction strategy and should be made widely available across your organisation. We think it’s worth covering the following areas:
- Personal responsibilities
- Mobile phone distraction
- Drugs and drinking
- Driver behaviour
- Route planning
- Road conditions
- Health and wellbeing
- Emergency procedures
3. Get accurate information
To reduce your accident rate, you need to know as much as possible about any incidents that have occurred within your fleet. It’s also vital you keep detailed records of all drivers and vehicles, including communications sent regarding actions taken to reduce or in response to accidents.
In our view, careful recording of each accident is vital – but not just insurance claim-style details. You need to record the kind of journey the driver was making, how long they had been driving, whether the vehicle had been recently inspected for safety, and more.
We know of some companies who interview their employees in detail after every accident. A system such as Fleet Accident Management Software can provide a valuable platform in which to store this information and audit it later.
4. Benchmark against other fleets
The simplest way to check if your accident reduction strategy is working well is to benchmark yourself against similar companies. Organisations such as the Australia Fleet Management Association (AfMA) can help with this.
As part of this process, you will also normally be able to share best practice ideas and discuss which strategies are proving most effective with fleet management peers.
5. Keep drivers fully informed
We can’t stress how important it is to involve your employees in the plan – if they feel included they are more likely to help you. This means providing guidance about:
- Their on-road behaviour
- The inspections that they need to periodically carry out on their vehicles
- What they need to do after a collision
- Any penalties likely to be implemented as a result of poor driving
Remember to communicate with them regularly – it is important to keep road safety near the top of the agenda.
6. Assess drivers’ skills
You must assess any employee who drives on business regularly. At the very least, this means checking their driving licence and looking at health issues such as eyesight that may affect them on the road. We also think it’s desirable to assess practical skills through on-road checks of driver behaviour by a qualified individual.
Assessments should be especially repeated following accidents and, if there is a question mark over a driver’s ability or suitability, they should be prevented from driving for work immediately pending further investigations.
7. Zero tolerance on drink and drugs
You must make it clear to drivers that you expect absolute adherence to the law on driving under the influence of drink and drugs. We know of many businesses which go further and state that drivers should not drive under the influence of any drink or drugs – this policy applies to both prescription and illegal, recreational drugs.
If in doubt, you and the driver should seek advice from a medical professional. Some fleets ask drivers to sign a pledge stating that they will not drive under the influence.
8. Create a road safety culture
Road safety needs to be taken seriously across your organisation and considered at every level. For example, there is little point in having a comprehensive accident reduction strategy if employees are placed under pressure by line managers to follow unrealistic schedules or delivery times.
You can also find a number of educational resources on the topic of safe driving tips, available from websites such as the Australian Road Safety Foundation.