How fleet managers can effectively minimise operational risk

Friday, April 10, 2015 - 13:27
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Backseat driver

James Jameson explains how and why fleet managers should take more care when it comes to operational risk.

The UK’s 200 largest fleets are responsible for around 500,000 trucks, cars and vans alone, so it is not surprising that the ability for these companies to manage their risk effectively across their moving operations will be high on the agenda for these firms.

Clients and consumers no longer judge businesses purely on the services they provide, but also on the way that they operate. Social responsibility is everything. From how well employees and communities are treated and how their safety is ensured, to the environmental and ethical stance that corporates assume. No stone is left unturned and further more, Joe Public has become accustomed to a minor role of corporate judge and executioner. Reputation is everything.

Transport for London’s Industrial HGV Taskforce (IHTF) compliance programme provided just a glimpse into the new climate in which fleet managers operate, when it issued over 1,000 fixed penalty notices to dangerous and unsafe, non-compliant vehicles earlier this year. Not only did these fines impact the tangible bottom lines but the intangible financial impact has been enormous with reputations taking a big hit. They also sent out a clear message that non-compliance would simply no longer be tolerated.

On the other end of the spectrum we are seeing companies striving every day to push their operations to go far beyond compliance. Wincanton, for example, which operates a fleet of over 4,000 vehicles, introduced their fully board-backed “Blind Spot Safety Programme” in 2013 to raise awareness among their own drivers and send out a much-needed positive message to vulnerable road users.

With fleets often operating on a national, if not an international level, fleet managers need to think progressively when it comes to risk, implementing processes and procedures to ensure they have complete visibility of their network. Only when they tackle incidents or near misses head-on and know where and why risks are happening can they begin to address them.

The right technology is an important part of this, from improving in-cab technology such as GPS sensors that can escalate erratic driver behaviour back at base, to video-enhancing road craft, to getting preventative software in place to get that all essential visibility of what is going wrong (and right) in operations.

Taking the Wincanton example again, the firm used Rivo to provide an early warning system of potential weaknesses and risks across their fleet to not only keep employees safe from accidental harm, but also crime-related issues. Beyond implementing the technology, Wincanton also worked with its employees to remove the fear of reporting bad news. While this did then result in an increase in the volume of incidents, it also allowed the company to identify issues and crime trends much sooner, enabling them to reduce the amount of time and money spent responding to incidents, and proactively invest instead in community programmes and training.

Having a comprehensive overview of risk is key to the sustainability of any fleet – it not only helps you stand out from the competition and conform to protocols, but also enables you to build stronger trust with your drivers, customers and the wider public. So equally beware of cutting corners when it comes to operational risk, because ultimately, if you’re not thinking about the greater good and the people you’re putting on the line, you’ll leave your reputation in tatters.

James Jameson is VP of Product Strategy at Rivo, the risk management software platform

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