Fleet safety

Traffic collisions continue to be the biggest transportation safety problem in Canada.

October 16, 2013
by Paul Wingate

From the September 2013 print edition of Canadian Automotive Review.

Think about everything you and employees of your business, organization or company typically do during the day.

Paul Wingate, National Director, Sales Force Effectiveness, Element Fleet Management

What represents one of the greatest risks to your health and safety? In a word: driving.
In a typical year Canadians collectively drive over 290 billion kilometres on the nearly 900,000 kilometres of roads nationwide. Unfortunately, there are on average over 170,000 injuries annually and over 2,000 fatalities. Traffic collisions continue to be the biggest transportation safety problem in Canada. The annual economic cost to society from injuries and property damage has been estimated at between $11 and $27 billion depending on the calculation method used.

Careful planning to prevent or mitigate liability with regards to fleet operations is essential. For example, by law, in most jurisdictions, a vehicle used for business purposes is considered part of the “workplace” and subject to workplace health and safety regulations.

In addition, Bill C-45, an act to amend the Criminal Code, came into force March 31, 2004 and defines who is responsible for the safety of persons in the workplace and to allow for prosecution under charges of “criminal negligence” when those responsibilities are recklessly or willfully disregarded.

The amendment states in part that: “Every one who undertakes, or has the authority, to direct how another person does work or performs a task is under a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to that person, or any other person, arising from that work or task.”

Determining the appropriate insurance coverage for company vehicles is just the beginning. Effective risk management requires much more. It is a mistake to think of accident management in isolation or simply in terms of “how do I get a damaged vehicle repaired?”

A systematic approach to your fleet policy that takes into account not only how accidents are handled, but also investing in positive actions to mitigate risk, is essential. This involves minimizing the situational stress to employees when accidents occur and the procedures, programs and services you have in place to maximize the safety of your drivers before and after the fact.

Best practice starts with a commitment to manage fleet safety as a critical business activity. Some of the best practices that Element Fleet Management recommends are:
Include safety considerations in vehicle selector and up fit choices.
Track preventive vehicle maintenance.
Ensure you have an up to date Fleet & Safety Policy that is clearly communicated with management and employees.
Perform a periodic review of employee driving records (abstracts) to identify the high-risk drivers. A recent study determined that drivers with five or more driving violations were almost three times more likely to have a fatal accident than a driver with a clear record.
Review reporting and conduct thorough investigations of all road incidents. Another recent analysis highlighted that if a driver had two at fault accidents (major or minor) over a three-year period, without additional training, their risk is substantially higher to repeat.
Use of telematics data (speeding, harsh braking etc.).
Provide additional driver safety training to reinforce safe driving practices.
Confirm that you are protected if employees and volunteers do not have adequate insurance when using their personal vehicle for business purposes.

An important aspect of a good fleet safety initiative is the insight it will provide about your drivers’ behaviour, and identifying the steps that should be taken as a result of this behaviour. One area that companies should focus their attention on is ‘aggressive’ driving. Not only is this a major cause of motor vehicle collisions, but it can also increase fuel consumption by up to 37 percent. A fleet safety strategy will fall short of its objective if a company fails to provide assistance to improve driver behaviour and/or does not identify and communicate the potential consequences of a driver’s actions.

We encourage our clients to be proactive in creating, implementing, monitoring and enforcing a comprehensive fleet safety program. There are significant financial reasons for doing this, but ultimately protecting lives is the priority.

Paul Wingate is National Director, Sales Force Effectiveness with Element Fleet Management Inc. He has more than 32 years of experience in the fleet industry, with management positions in operations, fleet optimization and sales.