Paul Barker grabs a cuppa and a chat with one of fleet’s most influential figures – Simon Turner, Campaigns Director, Driving for Better Business.
The Driving for Better Business Campaign has been running for more than a dozen years, helping businesses to identify and understand the issues surrounding road safety at work. Campaigns Director Simon Turner talks us through the organisation’s work and goals.
QWhat is Driving for Better Business all about, and what are you trying to achieve?
Driving for Better Business started in early 2007 and its purpose is to raise awareness of the need for businesses to manage work-related road risk and safety. Safety messages usually aren’t something that businesses put high on their priority list, but they do listen to the business case. Where you can prove that doing this improves efficiency and performance, and reduces operational costs, that’s when they listen.
Driving for Better Business was started by the DFT, and is now run by Highways England in partnership with Roadsafe. Highways England took it on nearly three years ago, adopting it as a programme that they saw could help achieve some of their objectives. So they’ve been ramping up their funding for it as they’ve seen how well it’s done.
We’ve got a firm commitment for Highways England to fund it now for at least the next three years.
What we do is offer tools to help businesses understand their position.
A QUESTION OF REACH
Driving for Better Business currently has companies registered to its programme that manage 665,000 drivers and almost 450,000 vehicles, spread across 149,000 cars, 233,000 vans and 63,000 heavy vehicles.
The current registration and seven-step process was launched three years ago, and Driving for Better Business is targeting registrations of companies totalling a combined million drivers in the short-term.
An increase in funding from Highways England over the next three years means that the Driving for Better Business website is about to get a revamp to improve the accessibility of resources and make it a great deal easier to use, while a push to increase its reach through partnerships is also on the cards.
“Next year, there’ll be a lot of collaborative projects with trade associations, fleet service providers and sector governing bodies,” Driving for Better Business campaigns manager Simon Turner told Company Car Today. “We’re working with the Rail Safety Standards Board to push it out through the entire rail industry; that’s a key one for us. And we’ll mimic that business model through other sectors. We’ll look to target utilities and ports, things like that.”
QIs that mainly around the legal side of their operations?
That might be things like a gap analysis around fleet risk so they can see what sort of things they should be managing from an organisational, driver, vehicle and journey point of view. And we give them the rationale for why that’s necessary.One of our champions is Hertfordshire Independent Living Services, which is like a social care meals on wheels service. They had a fleet largely based on Hyundai i10 models.
Initially, what they had was a red, amber, green traffic light system in the cars. And that reduced their speeding instances by 80%. That in turn led to a reduction in collisions of 43%. And that then led to an immediate reduction in fleet insurance of 26%. When the case study was done, they had around 70 vehicles, so that’s a massive saving. But what they also found is that the lease cars were going back with less damage, so they were faced with fewer penalties. And with the owned cars, they were protecting the end-of-life value.
QHow do you measure the engagement that you’re getting from fleets?
We have created a seven-step process. It starts with registering the business, you do a risk assessment, create a policy, get in leadership buy-in etc, and then through to step seven, which is that you’re there doing good practice, and still seeking constant improvement.
QIs there any common theme of changes fleet operations can make that have potential financial benefits as well as safety ones?
The biggest one is insisting on autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and other advanced driver-assistance systems; that’s one of the government’s primary objectives, to increase take up of AEB among fleets.
With AEB, Euro NCAP research showed that it can reduce rear-end incidents by up to 38%. And Thatcham have shown that it reduced third-party claims by around 45%.
QWhat is stopping the take-up of such a safety benefit by fleets?
Cost. If you take a leased car, if the driver has a choice of paying £280 without AEB and £281 with AEB; they’ll still go for the £280.
Part of the problem is that ADAS technology is not recognised in the residual values, so it means you end up covering the whole cost of that option, over the term of the lease. Until it’s recognised as a value-add to the car and there’s some kind of return on defleet for that extra investment, it’s always going to be a struggle to get it past people purely looking at the numbers on procurement.
But then you actually look at the benefits that it could bring by reducing collisions. Companies need to look at their claims breakdown with their broker or their insurer, look at how many are rear-end shunts and then think ‘well if we could take 40% out of that, is it worthwhile doing?’. I think they might find it is.
And it’s not just the obvious cost of claims. You’ve got lots of hidden costs such as the management and admin time and money in the dealing with the claim and replacement rental cars and all of that, but the biggest hidden cost is staff absence following an incident.
QAre there other easy wins for fleets that are looking to improve their road-safety record?
On a really basic level, so many companies don’t even have a driving-for-work policy.
It tends to be smaller businesses, and what we tend to find is fleet managers, by and large, are aware of what needs to be done. But a fleet manager isn’t often a senior manager, and it’s quite often a struggle to get buy-in from leaders.
And from an HR perspective, the major challenge is grey fleet. We did some research in the summer, through a proper census company, of 255 C-level executives, and just over 1000 drivers. The aim was to identify a disconnect between what executives thought was happening in their businesses and what drivers on the ground said was actually happening.
The key things that came out of that were 53% of executives didn’t know how many grey fleet drivers they had, or whether they had any, and 60% thought it wasn’t their problem; it wasn’t the company’s responsibility.
Out of the thousand drivers, 90% identified as grey fleet, but third of them had no business insurance.
One of the grey fleet challenges, is the fact that as a business you have no control or very little control over what the type of car is, and we’re increasingly seeing companies set parameters on grey fleet vehicle. So if you want to use your own car for work, it must satisfy these criteria. That might be an age limit, might be an engine size, it might be vehicle type. You can’t go and use a 30-year-old MGB roadster if you’re going to drive to between London and Manchester.
QIs that where the line is between cash-for-car and traditional grey fleet, because it’s quite hard to say to somebody, we’re not providing you with a car, but you can’t use your own?
It is quite hard, but it’s possible. As a company, the ownership of the vehicle is irrelevant in law to the risk. If you want to claim business mileage for using your car, you’ll do it on our terms, is the thinking behind it. And certainly with a cash option, you’ve chosen to take the cash rather than a car we’re giving you, but you still need one that is suitable to the job we’re asking you to do.
QWhat else is going on in terms of other things that are affecting a fleet’s safety and therefore cost?
One of the main directions is this move to what we call safe sustainable mobility. Rather than assuming people are going to use a company car or their own car, you’re throwing hire cars and car clubs and stuff into the mix, along with a greater willingness to use public transport and video conferencing, especially from a sustainability point of view.
We’re actually starting to see more companies demand proper justification for business travel.
There are many companies now, where if we wanted to drive to Manchester, we’ve got to put a proper business case together for doing that, or they won’t let us do it. The question will be why can’t you use the train? And this whole sustainability, commitment is really starting to ramp up. It’s almost reached a tipping point where before you were maybe in the minority if you were banging on about that, whereas everybody’s falling over themselves to catch up now and not be seen to be harming in the environment.
Where Driving for Better Business fits into the fleet landscape
There are plenty of other companies that do driver training, risk management, telematics firms who can give advice. What we do is allow companies to identify a gap, and then signpost them to some resources that can help them fill that gap themselves, and also where to get additional advice if they want.