HGV trainee under instruction

Lawyer warns of costly safety risks for fleets from HGV driver test cutbacks

The nationwide shortage of drivers has been making headlines across the UK and Europe over the last few months, with the government looking to counter this by overhauling regulations to speed up the process of obtaining a HGV driving licence. It’s imperative that effective steps are taken quickly to recruit more HGV drivers, but fast-tracked testing brings the risks of a reduction in driver competency and therefore more road traffic accidents.

Ian Evans

Ian Evans

It comes as no surprise that fleet managers will more-so than ever be dreading the prospect of increased damage claims bill; the average cost of repairs per incident sits at around £2000, meaning fleet costs could increase significantly. Less qualified drivers operating large commercial vehicles in tight pedestrian areas or in depots is likely to result in an increased number of low velocity collisions.

What is more frightening for fleet managers is the prospect of more serious incidents such as collisions with pedestrians, multi-vehicle collisions, or impacts at a high speed. Any claim including major vehicle damage or personal injury can have a substantial impact on not just a legal pay-out, it is damaging from a brand and PR perspective too.

With the Government looking to help resolve this much larger issue with less intensive testing, fleet operators can introduce a number of new measures to put them on the best foot to avoid risks to safety, insurance and costs. All fleet managers can introduce or even bolster their own internal training programmes for all drivers, irrespective of the minimum requirements through these new Government measures. As an alternative, looking to outsourced programmers can be a solution; there is a rising offering for remote, online solutions in the aftermath of the pandemic.

While reactive actions such as post-incident investigations and driver interviews may be seen as “too little, too late”, they can be a great tool to ensure that lessons are learned and proper driver feedback regarding best practice is delivered. Analysing the overall claims data is another option to assess the most frequent causes of incidents, and can be a huge help in effectively implementing safe driving strategies. The carrot or stick-type incentives (such as financial rewards for clean drivers or those who report early to reduce claims cost) can prove to be a valuable tool in encouraging the driver’s buy-in to good driving practices. As an alternative, those involved with late reporting or fault incidents could be given financial penalties or even disciplinary measures should you so wish.

HGV driverOther options include installing telematics, such as G-force systems to monitor heavy braking or actual incidents and black box software to track speeds, which can also help assess driving practice. Any dash-cam footage of actual incidents is gold dust to enable early decisions on liability – with this in mind, minor incidents where manoeuvring in tight spaces can be minimised by having camera access from within the vehicle, such as reversing cameras. While many fleet managers will spare little expense in their technology investments, this should be supplemented with an investment in people who can monitor driving behaviour with all the data gathered.

While operators may take the option of changing or increasing their insurance covers for better protection against rising incident costs, this will result in an increase in premiums.

To conclude, despite some incidents being fault claims, it’s vital to have a proper uninsured loss recovery (ULR) solution in place to minimise claims spend on non or partial fault incidents (this may include policy excess, repair, replacement vehicle costs or loss of use). Operators across the country should concentrate on minimising the cost against the business in fault incidents. However, this is not an either or. Maximising loss recovery and helping to reduce overall spend is best actualised by having an effective ULR solution.

By Ian Evans, partner at ULR experts Corclaim

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