Should you offer all fleet drivers training after a crash?

Posted on Oct 27, 2015

Fleet vehicles are a big cost to business and a lot of effort goes into managing driver risk and providing training, whether on the road or online.

But research by a leading road safety charity suggests more than half of companies are not offering training when a fleet driver needs it most – after an accident.

I’m lucky enough to have never been involved in a serious accident but the other day I had a minor bump in a country lane.  No-one was hurt and there wasn’t much more than a scratch on either vehicle.  Nonetheless, my hands were shaking afterwards and I had to pull over for a few minutes to calm down.  For a few days afterwards, I avoided that stretch of road and it took a good few weeks to regain my confidence on rural routes. Remember, this is was a minor incident but it goes to show the impact even a minor shunt can have on a driver.

Worrying research

There are more than 35 million fleet vehicles in the UK and around 86% of fleets will have experienced an accident in the last 12 months.  It’s estimated that one in three road accidents in the UK involves a vehicle being driven for work.  About half of fleet accidents cost over £1,000 in vehicle repairs so repeat incidents can make a sizeable dent in company finances.

Of course, the financial impact pails into insignificance against the human cost of fleet accidents.  Around 75% of workplace deaths are as a result of driving; it’s still one of the most dangerous work activities people undertake on a daily basis.   

Most large companies with fleet drivers operate some kind of Driver Risk Management (DRM) system to manage risk effectively and maintain a duty of care. This will include training but often it is only targeted at drivers deemed to be at high risk and usually takes place when an employee joins the company or moves into a job with fleet driving responsibilities.  

A new report by The Institute of Advanced Motorists’ (IAM) Drive & Survive division, providing analysis of fleet incidents based on a survey of a 100 companies, makes worrying reading.  It reveals that while 80% of businesses have post-incident policies and procedures in place, more than 50% do not offer post-incident driver training as a means of reducing the risk of repeat incidents. An earlier IAM study also revealed that 72% of people who drive for work in the UK had never been offered driver training at any stage.

IAM concluded: “Many companies are not….putting in place sufficient measures to reduce the risk of incidents happening or (more worryingly) happening again to the same drivers.”

More than 50% of businesses don’t offer training to their drivers after an accident

Barriers and benefits

Given what is at stake, the question is why are so many fleet drivers not being offered training after an accident?  There is no definitive data explaining this trend but a number of factors may be influencing decision-making in this area:

  • Post-incident training is not compulsory for corporate fleet drivers
  • Driver training costs money and takes up time
  • Post-incident procedures focus on managing the administrative burden rather than prevention of repeat incidents
  • Companies do not deem training necessary if their driver was not at fault
  • The impact on the driver’s confidence is underestimated

But while there are obstacles to overcome, there are significant benefits of offering post-incident driver training as a way to avoid repeat accidents.  The advantages make a strong business case:

  • Better trained, more confident fleet drivers
  • Reduced repair, legal and administrative costs
  • Increased residual value of fleet vehicles
  • Enhanced company reputation
  • Quicker return to full efficiency for drivers
  • Improved evidence of duty of care and corporate responsibility

Training as standard

For those companies that do offer post-incident training, the majority would normally do some form of assessment to identify which employees to target.  For reasons of cost and time, only those deemed to be at fault or at increased risk of a repeat accident will be offered face-to-face training and, of course, this makes good business sense. But it’s not a fool-proof strategy and overlooks the needs of the drivers who now lack confidence, those who have never had driver training and those who would benefit from training regardless of their risk level.

One option is to provide post-incident training as standard so all drivers can have at least some base level learning support following a crash. An obvious way to make this approach cost-effective is to offer the training online. Online courses can help drivers to learn good behaviours and the best approach for managing driving situations in the safest way. Elearning also reduces the amount of downtime required for training. Innovative elearning techniques include:

  • Interactive video
  • 3D simulations
  • Video-based scenarios
  • Elearning games and game elements
  • Animations

These are all highly interactive elements and well-suited to the likely content of post-incident training such as road safety, minimising risk, identifying hazards, building confidence and driving defensively. Importantly, adding an assessment or test to the elearning can help fleet managers identify which drivers require further one-on-one intervention or on-road training.

Finally, there is evidence that fleet drivers themselves are crying out for training, whether or not they have been involved in an accident.  A survey found that 44% of work drivers who had not been offered training would welcome the opportunity.  The challenge for business is to find the best way to meet this demand and make driving safer for their employees.

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