Fleet Management has evolved into a complex role over the last 30 years. It is not wholly about drivers and vehicles, it is equally concerned with the environment, cost, efficiency, training, employment and health and safety within all aspects of the workplace including the wider road network.
Fleet Managers today shoulder far greater responsibilities than ever before, and it is as a result of their professionalism that not only transport companies, but equally manufacturers and industry suppliers who have prospered through their skills.
Work-Related Road Safety
Managing work-related road safety is difficult. Your drivers are away from the sanctuary of their home base and in an environment where they have no control over what may/may not befall them. However, being pro-active and minimising the potential risk factor by proper training, supplying your drivers with the correct tools to carry out their work function and ensuring the vehicles they drive are problem-free and safe to take onto the public highway will go a long way to minimising risk.
The government equally has a role to play here. Sensible legislation, good road infrastructure, sufficient parking for commercial vehicles and assistance through government-funded training programs are key elements in ensuring that risk is minimised and the supply chain continues to move forward as it should.
Dovetailing the priorities of Fleet Managers and Government representatives in an effort to attain the same goal can only be achieved if both parties listen to each other. It's all very well that the Industry can see the reasons for things such as traffic congestion, as long as the Government looks to the value that any solution that's posed has. Not doing something because there's a price tag attached is not an answer, at some point (like it or not) something will invariably have to be done and the new price tag will likely be considerably higher. Moreover, what occurs in the interim period, is a growth in the risk factor(s) (for all) and the likelihood of potential death and injury. Close co-operation is the key.
The Road safety bill was one measure that was introduced at the end of 2006, which, through its content will do much to remove some of the risk element on our roads, which includes targeting irresponsibility through graduated fixed penalties for those drivers who flout the law and further action for Operators via the enforcement body - DVSA.
For the Fleet Manager of today, managing work-related road safety has some potential benefits, such as:
- Benefits from potentially reduced insurance premiums
- Unnecessary absence of the workforce through the prevention of work-related accidents
- Informed decisions made on purchasing the correct vehicles
- Recognising specific training needs
- Lower repair and maintenance costs
- The overall reduction in running costs through positive driver training
- Reduction in operational costs through more productive use of management time
Despite the fact that many of the more enlightened employers and fleet managers have been successfully managing occupational road risk for some time, there are still far too many companies and organisations failing to implement occupational road risk schemes. It's not enough to wholly rely on the Health & Safety personnel to do things for you, this needs to come from the key player - you.
The carbon footprints of many transport operators (especially those running empty mileage) are far from acceptable in the 21st century. With Transport CO2 emissions still increasing and 20% of the total CO2 emissions in the UK coming from road traffic, there is an ever-greater need for Fleet Managers to look long and hard at how they manage their domains and to take ownership for what their predecessor will inherit.
In an age where the cost of a barrel of oil stands at 41$ (Brent Crude – 18.06.20) and the reflective pump prices in the UK are over £1 per litre, it's vitally important that the boardroom listens to reasoned discussion on reducing its companies carbon footprint and considers a shift to other modes of transport, even if these are only intended for use in our towns and cities.
The use of new generation fuels such as Biodiesel coupled with the Electric/Hybrid vehicles all help in this area. However, whereas Biodiesel has many benefits, there are equally certain disadvantages such as engine performance and power.
Areas, where Fleet Management can play a role utilising existing fleets, are as follows:
- Vehicles capable of doing the work intended
- A good fleet maintenance policy
- Driver training and education
- Minimise vehicles running empty
- Good tyre policy
All of these points can contribute to reducing your company’s carbon footprint, and can equally have a significant benefit on your bottom line.
Wider Road Network
In the last decade, the Transport industry has seen nothing more than cost 'dumped' unceremoniously on its bottom line eroding its potential to be profitable through the introduction of the Road Transport Working Time Directive, changes in EC Drivers Hours Rules, Congestion charging, speed limiters, extortionate fuel prices and the power-crazed attitude of local authorities regarding parking fines. This industry cannot absorb any more unnecessary costs.
It’s ironic that with road transport welcomed with open arms during the Covid-19 pandemic, more cost is coming our way if you deliver to London, although others will follow suit, in the shape of the Direct Vision Standard, courtesy of TFL.
The fact that something needs to be done regarding traffic congestion is not in question. The crux of the matter is simply that the current Road Infrastructure is inadequate for today’s volume of traffic and nothing more.
Whereas some road building has continued over the last 20 years, there are key areas within the UK that have seen "first aid" given when it is patently obvious that major surgery is the only solution to remedying the situation. An example of this is undoubtedly the South Coast road network, or rather the lack of it.
The points below are applicable to the South Coast from Folkestone through to Honiton. It's unbelievable that this same stretch of the road network was proposed to be completed as the South Coast Folkestone to Honiton link as far back as the early 60's - all 230 miles of it, however:
- ‘A’ roads have been downgraded in an effort not to spend money on them
- Multi-million-pound schemes carried through on specific junctions that have resolved one problem but further created others
- Bypasses around major towns, proposed and shelved
- Upgrading of short sections of dual carriageway, which has only speeded the bottleneck from one town to the next
- Public Inquiry after Public Inquiry without resolve and millions of pounds of taxpayers money spent
- Billions spent on ‘smart motorways’ which will be returned to what they were previously because the government and its advisors got it completely wrong
When talking about the 'Wider Road Network', we should also be considering the people that use it. There is a huge argument here for many sensible solutions that would go a long way to minimising congestion through vehicle usage. Until then, Fleet Managers will have to continue negotiating the obstacles placed in front of them in an effort to keep the wheels in motion at minimal cost and risk.
The following should assist in giving guidance and further information, please use the links below.