From electrical work to heating and air conditioning, there are many contracting industries that rely on a fleet of some kind to get to and from the job. From a risk management perspective, there are several potential pitfalls when it comes to operating a company fleet. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that in a single year, roadway accidents on the job cause over 2000 deaths, and employers experience over 44,000 incidents that result in lost work days. The potential risks are great—and incidents and accidents can quickly compound as insurers raise rates and up the cost for a business owner. Operating a fleet requires proactive, strategic thinking in order to take a risk and transform it into an organizational strength. Let's break down 7 ways to make your fleet a safer and more profitable part of your company.
Let’s face the facts. If your fleet remained inside the garage, you would probably have few accidents. While this would certainly make it harder to get work done it does demonstrate the fact that drivers have a significant impact on risk while the fleet is in the field. Distracted driving, speeding, and other driver behaviors increase the risk of an accident that could cause work to stop and make a company liable for damage. Studies by the CDC and AAA indicate that drivers engage in risky behavior more often than one might think. Only 85% of commercial drivers regularly wear their seatbelts, while 46% have gone 15mph or more over the speed limit and 20% of them said that speeds like that were totally acceptable.  Ensuring that you have drivers in the field who are responsible and risk-averse is a crucial component of a fleet risk mitigation strategy. Here are a few tips to consider
Before you hire anyone who might be operating your fleet, do your research. Take a deep dive into their motor vehicle records (MVR) and keep a look out for crashes and other violations. One of the best ways to avoid reckless driving is by keeping people with a history outside of your organization.
From as early on as during the onboarding process, place an emphasis on safety. Critically, don’t stop after the initial training. Make sure that expectations are periodically refreshed, and training is conducted to keep drivers aware and alert of their behavior while operating in the fleet. It would be wise to draw up a set of expectations that also includes a list of consequences should they fail to comply. Have your drivers sign these Vehicle Use Agreements and give them the opportunity to get clarity on anything that they are confused about.
Motivate your team to be proactive about safety by rewarding them for doing things the right way. Review their MVRs regularly and provide incentives for extended safe behavior that will encourage your team to actively participate in your push for a safer fleet.
Even with the safest and most responsible drivers around, fleet safety can be derailed by vehicles that are subpar. Imagine your best driver is heading onto the jobsite, when the vehicle’s brakes (which haven’t been checked in quite a while) give out. He could crash into equipment, other employees, or anyone in the vicinity—putting you at risk for payouts for medical bills, property damage, and potential lawsuits. Making sure you have reliable vehicles, and that they are properly maintained should be non-negotiable. Here are a few things to think about:
The quality of vehicles that you choose matters. Vehicles that are reliable will require less maintenance, which means less costs for the business. Vehicles with high safety rating and safety features could be the difference between a crash and a near miss. You could partner with a fleet leasing and management company to help with this process or do it yourself, but make sure that you are intentional about the vehicles you bring into your fleet.
It's simply not good enough to fix vehicles when they break. After all, if the wrong component fails at the wrong time, it will be too late: the damage will already be done. Instead ensure that you have a preventative maintenance program in place. You should also have policies in place to both conduct and respond immediately to Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports. Your drivers will be the first to notice if something with their vehicle seems off.
There are many steps an organization can take that will improve safety in some way. They could start conducting mandatory training on safe driving each month. They could stop ignoring drivers who report small issues with their vehicles. All these steps are good. However, research indicates there is a better way. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute conducted research on safety performance and found that every little step an organization took improved safety performance, but that comprehensive adjustments to fleet safety strategy make a bigger difference in safety scores. The key was a culture of safety that required buy-in from all the stakeholders: management and drivers alike. Some companies reported a 56% decrease in preventable collisions, and 6 out of 9 carriers reported that a well-rounded safety culture improved their safety outcomes significantly.  How can an organization shift their mindset on safety, and does it really make that big of a difference? That could be a whole other article. If you are interested, you can read more here.
Safety equates to savings; not only will a safer fleet result in less incidents and less money coming out of an owner’s pocket via personal and property damage, but insurance rates will drop as well. For more on that check out this article. The savings don’t stop there though. Improving efficiency is an organization’s key to both reducing costs and increasing profitability. One of the biggest culprits for a company fleet that will increase your costs and eat your profits is engine idling. At first glance, it may seem that a driver idling his engine is somewhat trivial but let's break down some of the math.
Let's say there are 10 drivers in a company fleet. In the average vehicle, an hour of idling equates to 1 gallon of gas. Now if your ten drivers idle for 30 minutes a day, over the course of a month they will rack up 125 idling hours. Let’s say that gas (and this is pretty generous) is at $2.50 per gallon. The 10 drivers are costing the company $312 every month. Some companies have even more drivers, and their idle hours are eating up even more of your profit margin each week.
Reducing idling hours is just one inefficiency that impacts efficiency. Some other elements to consider are route planning—make sure that you send the closest driver whenever possible, and track routes to ensure that your drivers are taking efficient routes to their next job.
Looking back at the 4 previous tips many of you may have the same question: how in the world do you keep track of this stuff? You put rules in place that drivers need to wear their seatbelts, and can't exceed the speed limit by more than 10 mph. Then they hop in their vehicles and take off for the job, and you have no idea whether they abide by the rules or not. You may have drivers inspect their vehicles and report issues—but if you don't have a system in place to capture those reports and manage your fleet health, what is the point? You try to reduce the amount of idling hours your drivers rack up, but how will you track it? All these issues have one thing in common—the solution likely lies in technology. Audit your organization’s tech stack and get an honest picture of your capabilities. To keep track of the 4 previous tips, here is the bare minimum you want to have in place:
The safety of your fleet and the condition of your vehicles is crucial. Fleet management software brings an organization the capability to manage inventory, preventative maintenance, check service history, manage work orders and schedule any service or work that a vehicle needs. There are tons of options out there, but this list is a good place to start looking for a tool that fits your needs.
To track important metrics like driver behavior, speed, idle hours, and route efficiency, you need real-time data from your vehicles. This is where a fleet telematics system comes into play. GPS insights, fuel monitoring, traffic updates, and recordings of incidents can all be a part of a fleet telematics solution. Once again there are a ton of options on the market, and it can be overwhelming to sift through their capabilities and pricing. This breakdown will help you get started.
For many businesses, managing a fleet is a real headache. There is substantial risk when you have drivers out in a dynamic world where anything could happen. However, by shifting your culture and creating a team of drivers that is bought in to safety, a fleet that is primed for performance, and a tech stack that can bring you data driven insight you can mitigate risk and turn your fleet into an asset that is safer, and more profitable.
If you have questions about fleet safety, technology solutions, creating a culture change, or anything else mentioned in this article we would love to learn more about you and your organization. Contact us by clicking the link below and let’s talk about how we can get the most out of your fleet.