People who drive for work spend more time on the road in stressful situations while multitasking and therefore increase their risk of having an accident. In fact, according to NZTA and ACC, up to 25% of work vehicles will be involved in some kind of incident every year, whether just a minor scrape or a more serious accident. It’s important that you take your drivers’ safety seriously as if they have an accident and the company is found to have not identified the risks and provided training and supervision, the fines can be very high.
Risks of driving at work
All employers (or PCBUs) must have a safe driving policy. You can get a comprehensive template just by creating an owner driver or company driver account on DT.
Drivers who are at work cause a significant number of accidents and the reasons are fairly simple to understand:
- The simple fact of spending more time on the road increases the risk of an accident.
- Drivers driving from work are often in a hurry to get to a meeting or make a delivery; traffic can increase stress in these circumstances, which leads to poor driving decisions such as speeding and tailgating.
- Drivers are often distracted when driving to and from meetings, thinking about what they will say, or how the meeting went. There’s a pressure to be ‘available and connected’ while driving, too.
- General stress levels can be higher at work, and drivers often miss meals or let themselves get inadvertently dehydrated.
- Drivers often have to contend with driving while looking for an unfamiliar place, for example the premises of a new client.
- There is often a pressure to drive in situations that are less than ideal because there’s an obligation to go to a meeting; often these are situations which we wouldn’t choose to drive in on weekends, such as heavy rain or fog.
- Young drivers who drive for work are particularly at risk as they haven’t yet had enough experience to develop responses for difficult driving situations.
- Professional drivers who drive all day do get used to driving and can be very proficient, but still have an elevated risk due to their time on the road.
- Drivers that drive at night or on shifts are more at risk of falling asleep at the wheel.
Obviously, heavy vehicle drivers have mandated break times which are enforced using a tachograph. However, sales reps and drivers in vehicles without a tachograph could drive extended distances without anyone knowing. It’s important that these drivers take frequent breaks, preferably one every two hours.
Reducing the risk of company drivers having an accident
Choose vehicles with active and passive safety technology. Newer vehicles will feature more of these:
- Electronic stability control and ABS – these are mandated on all new passenger cars
- Lane keep assist – warns the driver if they are drifting out of the lane
- Fatigue monitoring – warns the driver to take a break after a certain period of time; some also monitor blink rate and where the driver is looking to detect if they are falling asleep
- Forward collision monitoring and collision mitigation – these systems warn if a collision is imminent and can apply the brakes autonomously if the driver doesn’t react in time
- Sensors and cameras for manouevring – these help reduce minor scrapes when parking
- Blind spot monitoring – warns the driver if they are about to make a lane change when another vehicle is there
- Adaptive cruise control – follows the speed of the vehicle in front
- Speed limiter – common on trucks, but available as part of the cruise control function on some cars
- Apple Car Play/Android Auto – allows for a better integration of the mobile phone into the car systems (this depends also on what your mobile phone policy is, though)
- Trailer sway mitigation
- Tyre pressure warning
- Vehicle telematics – third party systems that monitor a driver’s driving style so that you can focus training on where they need it.
Your whole team can contribute to reducing driver risk by allocating driving duties appropriately – do you need to drive or can you take public transport, walk, or have a meeting via video conferencing. Timeframes for deliveries or getting between meetings should be realistic. Phone use should be discouraged. All the things you need to consider are in the safe driving policy you can download in your account on DT.
Have you established who is responsible for looking after a company vehicle? Employee drivers are usually responsible for reporting any vehicle defects to their manager, and to never drive a vehicle that has a defect which would make driving dangerous or would cause it to fail a warrant of fitness.
Employee drivers can actively reduce their risk of having an accident by:
- Ensuring they are physically fit to drive – this includes not driving if they are taking medication that might affect their driving
- Knowing what to do in an emergency – information to collect after an accident, how to deal with injured people, etc
- Never driving after drinking or taking drugs
- Ensuring their eyesight is up to standard
- Driving according to the rules in the Road Code
- Using appropriate driving, i.e. driving to the conditions
- Being aware of fatigue
- Mitigating stressful situations
- Planning routes effectively to avoid traffic where possible
- Considering passengers and cargo
- Maintain their licences and not drive vehicles for which they don’t have the appropriate licence.
Assessing and monitoring your drivers
Many companies choose to assess a driver before allowing them to drive a company vehicle. You can use an experienced driver in-house (preferably someone with experience in advanced driver training), or an external agency or driving instructor. This might be a requirement if you have an unusual vehicle, such as the one above.
You will need a system to prioritise and control your risks, and provide information, training and supervision.
In a large organisation you might have several people responsible for this, and they will need to cooperate with one another. In a small organisation, the whole task may fall onto the owner. In any case, the person managing it should be competent (has the right skills and knowledge), should involve your drivers or their representatives in your decisions (you’ll get more buy-in from them), and understands when to call in a specialist.
If drivers or their representatives identify training requirements then you must provide it where necessary.
Make sure you are collecting enough information to make an informed decision. The types of information you can collect are:
- Fuel usage in relation to kilometers travelled, vehicle type and time of day the vehicle operates (lighter vehicles with smaller engines operating in off-peak times will tend to use less fuel)
- Types of accidents per department or employee (log mitigating factors, too)
- Frequency of accidents per department or employee (log mitigating factors, too)
- Types and frequency of accidents per vehicle type.
It’s easy to become bogged down in data, so ensure you are collecting data that is relevant for you.
Make sure you check out the Road Safety Checklist for Workers available for free to anyone with an owner driver or company/fleet driver account.