Shops, restaurants and many other businesses are beginning to reopen as lockdown restrictions ease. Our pavements and roads are gradually returning to pre-lockdown levels of business, which is good news for the economy. But with drivers seriously out of practice, experts are worried that accident levels will spike. Fleet managers in particularly need to do all they can to protect not just their businesses from the potential negative impacts of this heightened risk, but the individual drivers their company employs also. As business takes the first steps to getting back on its feet, driver safety needs to be at the forefront of managers’ minds.
Not only will a company’s drivers need to readjust themselves to driving regularly once more, but they will need to anticipate just how rusty other road users will be. And fleet managers have a duty to help them with this challenge. A Hyundai survey on driving during lockdown found that four in ten felt that other road users were driving faster since measures were introduced, with almost a fifth of individuals admitting that their driving has suffered with the drop in road travel. Traffic levels in late June were reported as being double the volume at the beginning of the lockdown in late March, with the AA even suggesting that traffic could return to pre-lockdown levels by the end of July. While fleet managers have no control over the risks brought on by other road users, with many drivers now returning to UK roads, it is the duty of fleet managers to anticipate new risks and do their utmost to ensure the safety of their staff. How can this best be done?
One very practical step fleet managers can take is to ensure their drivers refresh their skills before getting them back out on the roads. While a lengthy period of fleet inactivity is sure to impact on business, managers can use the opportunity of this quieter business time to take advantage e-learning facilities, e.g. to bolster their employees’ road risk knowledge and hazard awareness, for example. Last month, the fleet driver training service Fleet Source was given the all-clear by Transport for London to begin the theory aspects of its training courses, with the practical elements being introduced later, once social distancing restrictions are reduced.
Raising awareness of the new risks on the road, as well as the old, needs to be a central part of fleet driver retraining. As restrictions and lockdown ease, we are already seeing a surge in bicycle and e-scooter use, and this is set to increase the more life returns to near-normal. Fleet managers need to be acutely aware of how these new phenomena increase personal safety risks for their drivers, as well as insurance risks for the business. Any additional training offered during this time will need to cover the changing face of road usership and the emerging new risks.
Fleet managers will also need to ensure their insurance cover is sufficient for the new landscape. The insurers at Admiral reported a rise in car insurance claims in late May as the first lockdown restrictions began to lift, with areas of southern England having up to a 48% increase in claims. Having to make an influx of insurance claims due to accidents at a time where income is delicate could certainly cause financial setbacks later down the line.
If drivers of fleet vehicles are unfortunate enough to be involved in accidents, the operator of the fleet should ensure they have a robust claims process already in place. In relation to non-fault incidents, this will allow them to recover all resulting losses and money owed to the business as quickly as possible. Because of financial downturn potentially in other parts of the business, these sorts of claims could be more important than ever – even critical – for the cash flow of businesses in the current Coronavirus environment.
Fleet managers have a duty to keep their drivers safe and in the current environment this means ensuring they take necessary precautions, are appropriately prepared and on top driving form once the UK gets back on the road. Making the most of any commercial downtime now to equip drivers with the relevant training could prove to be a real boon as the company navigates its way through the challenges of what comes next after Lockdown.