Reduced confidence and lack of engagement are among the driver issues fleets need to watch out for as they return to the road with the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, according to the Association of Fleet Professionals (AFP).
The organisation has published a new white paper, entitled ‘Return to work: Back behind the wheel’, which aims to help employers through the process of managing driver wellbeing and safety as they emerge from the pandemic.
The paper has been put together by the AFP’s Risk, Compliance and Health Committee, based on ideas and observations from across its membership. The paper sets out key areas of concern, the first of which is that drivers may have lost confidence, with reports from AFP members that some employees have become deconditioned to daily driving.
It states: “Managers need to be aware of this possibility and make plans for driver skill fade or reduced confidence, even perhaps anxiety behind the wheel. “Some drivers may need training to refresh their skills, or you might need to identify ways of helping them to improve their confidence in getting back behind the wheel.”
Another issue is said to be driver engagement, with fewer employees coming into contact with their fleet or line manager, both of whom will have responsibility for their safety. The paper argues managers need to take steps to mitigate this, to avoid harm being done to an organisation’s road safety culture, and to combat feelings of isolation, with company car drivers working from home among those at risk.
The paper also states that drivers should be monitored for unsafe behaviour, with the Covid-19 pandemic having created potential circumstances for misuse of drugs and alcohol to spread, and for an increase in mental health conditions, which employers need to be able to spot, with mental and emotional wellbeing now needing as much attention as other health and safety considerations from businesses.
Finally, the paper states that fleets should be aware some Covid-related measures, such as increased home working and reduced office capacities, are likely to continue for some time to come, and that these will need to be integrated into organisations’ approach to driver wellbeing.
Commenting with the paper’s publication, AFP chair Paul Hollick said: “We’re seeing two sets of potential risk problems emerging. One is drivers who have worked in frontline services and industries such as parcel delivery who have been placed under huge pressure during the pandemic.” The other is people who have been placed on furlough or who have been home working and have covered many fewer miles in the last year than previously. These people may need breaking back into driving in a safe and structured fashion. “Our new white paper is designed to provide advice on what fleet managers need to do to promote driver wellbeing and therefore safety at this important moment in time, drawing on expertise from across our organisation. “It is available to all AFP members and should prompt essential ideas and discussions that can be applied to each employer’s individual situation.”