Identifying Safety Metrics to Create a Safer Fleet
Attaining a high level of safety within a fleet is more than a policy and a dollop of training. Fleet managers must identify and implement key metrics to keep drivers safe and minimize costs.
A fleet safety strategy consists of a number of key metrics that can help reduce fleet accidents. Writing a safety policy, attaining senior-level endorsement, and handling policy violations with consistency are some steps fleet managers can take to help ensure a safer driving culture.
Fleet safety can often get as much lip service as it does serious commitment. That commitment only begins with the fleet manager; it extends upward, laterally, and downward in the organization.
Creating a policy document is only a small part of that commitment, an early step in a well-thought-out strategy. That strategy consists of a number of key metrics that emanate from that policy and extend throughout the company. Here are those metrics and how they fit into creating a safer, more cost-efficient fleet.
Take the First Steps
The first thing any fleet manager should do is assess exactly where the company sits vis a vis fleet safety. This is done by examining a number of key areas:
● Policy. Is there a formal fleet policy? If so, does it have a safety component? If not, why not?
● Training. Does the company provide drivers with safety training? When? How often? What kind?
● Statistics. How many accidents occur per million miles driven? What is the average cost per accident (including hard costs such as repairs, replacement rentals, and liability costs, and soft costs such as downtime)? How many are chargeable/not chargeable accidents?
● Enforcement. If a policy exists, does fleet management consistently enforce it at all levels?
● Communication. How does fleet management communicate safety in the field, if at all?
As with anything else, it's difficult to know where to go unless you know where you've been and where you are now. This kind of assessment will reveal gaps in the safety effort and provide fleet managers with a road map as to how to fill them.
Attain Management Endorsement
The first metric in ensuring a safer fleet is to seek a serious, formal endorsement from management. Lack of such an endorsement will make enforcement of policy and the seriousness with which staff views safety difficult. That endorsement must come from the highest level possible: the "C" level, beginning with the CEO.
What gets senior management's attention? Start with cost and how to contain and reduce it. It is likely the CEO deals with big numbers, in the hundreds of millions or billions in most of his or her decision-making processes. Unless the fleet is of unusual size, e.g., tens of thousands of vehicles, these kinds of numbers will be impossible to show as they pertain to safety and the lack of a safety program.
If the fleet is relatively average in size, say, several hundred vehicles, fleet management can express the costs associated with a lack of focus on safety in a manner more likely to make a CEO sit up and take notice. Let's say a 500-vehicle fleet has 100 accidents per year (a 20-percent rate, not unusual), and the average cost of these accidents is $1,500 per occurrence. That's a total of $150,000 in cost - not a small number at the departmental level, but not quite eye-opening in the executive suite.
But let's further say the company operates at a 5-percent PAT (profit after tax) rate. Use a technique known as "grossing up" to put that $150,000 into a much more interesting perspective. At that 5-percent rate, the company must sell a full $3 million worth of product or service just to pay for the cost of those accidents ($150,000 / 0.05 = $3 million). Put another way, that's $3 million of sales the company needs to produce at zero profit due to the costs of accidents. Knocking that accident rate in half, or a combination of prevention and reduction in the average cost that halves it, will in essence produce $1.5 million in profitable sales that didn't exist before. Imagine the effect of this method if the fleet has 1,000 or 5,000 vehicles, and that's just for repairs and other internal costs. Throw in some liability cost for physical damage, injury, or even death, and the numbers skyrocket. That extra comma and those extra zeros are likely to command some attention from a CEO or CFO.
Whatever the method, management endorsement at senior levels is the first and most important metric a fleet manager must deliver to make a safety focus work. The endorsement should be formal, written, and seen by every stakeholder in the fleet operation. It is the blunt instrument a fleet manager needs to make all the other metrics effective.
Include Safety in Fleet Policy
Selling safety to senior management and obtaining their endorsement leads to the next metric: a safety component in fleet policy. A safety policy must be complete, define terms, and be clear in both the consequences for violation and rewards for exemplary compliance.
Begin with an overall safe driving statement: All drivers of company vehicles, or drivers of personal vehicles on company business, will be expected to drive defensively, be aware of others on the road, avoid accidents, obey traffic laws, and keep their vehicles in safe operating condition. From there, fleet management can develop a more specific policy:
● Seat belts. All drivers and their passengers are required to wear seat belts.
● Drugs/alcohol. Drivers are not permitted to use drugs (legal or otherwise) or alcohol when operating a company vehicle, or a personal vehicle on company business. No exceptions.
● Cell phones. Drivers should not be permitted to use cell phones or smartphones while driving. Drivers must stop the vehicle in a legal place when speaking, texting, or otherwise using mobile devices.
● Personal use. The policy should clearly spell out personal use guidelines, which can vary from one company to another (prohibited, employee only, employee and spouse, licensed family member). It also should not allow any exceptions except in a defined emergency, such as a driver becoming incapacitated.
● Obey traffic laws. All drivers are expected to obey all traffic laws, including speed limits, signals, signs, and regulations.
● Driver's license. Drivers must be legally licensed in the state in which they reside.
● Motor vehicle record (MVR). Fleet management will review MVRs for all employees who drive company vehicles at the time of hire and on a regular schedule each year. If the personal use policy permits any others to drive the vehicle, fleet management will assess their records as well, on the same schedule.