DRIVER TRAINING: Education key to keeping safe and cutting costs

Date: Tuesday, December 8, 2020   |   Author: Tim Cattlin

Under pressure to improve safety and economy, fleet managers are introducing driver training and monitoring. 


There’s the potential for drivers to be reluctant to be trained to do something that they probably think they are quite proficient at. None of us like to have our competence at driving challenged, but, in these days of rising costs and the corporate pressures of having to remain competitive but also to provide a duty of care, it’s something that can reap rewards for many businesses. Recent years have seen specialist companies appear that have developed approaches which have proved highly successful, with fleets being able to see a clear cost saving. 

Martin Starkey, training manager at licence checking service Licence Bureau (part of the TTC Group), highlights some startling statistics: “Reported and unreported road incidents in the UK are estimated to cost a total of around £35bn per year, and businesses of any scale should be fully aware of that type of risk profile. Human error continues to be the cause of over 95% of vehicle accidents on the road, yet modern vehicles have a plethora of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) aimed at preventing this.” 

Starkey adds: ‘During 2018, according to the Department for Transport, more than three times as many people were killed in incidents involving a driver/rider driving for work than those killed in traditional ‘workplace’ industry groups. And, of more than 1,500 business drivers to have attended a Licence Bureau training course during 2019, only 0.1% knew the national speed limits in 16 different, basic scenarios.” 

TTC Group provides its TTC Continuum dynamic data platform, backed up by its Driver Safety Awareness educational programme. “Driver Safety Awareness provides drivers with the tools and strategies to question existing behaviours and take on board a more controlled and calm methodology towards driving, helping to create a ‘culture’ for personal accountability and transparency amongst drivers,” says Starkey. “The benefits of Driver Safety Awareness is two-fold: not only does the individual driver take on greater responsibility and understanding of the challenges faced daily as well as the opportunities to enhance their skill sets, but so too do organisations benefit from drivers taking greater personal ownership and responsibility for their actions.”

Technology company Lightfoot developed a solution prompted by a fleet who had replaced vehicles with hybrid-powered alternatives, but were not reaping any cost savings. “Modern fleets are making huge strides to cut costs, lower emissions, and improve driver safety and well-being through the adoption of new technology,” says Lightfoot CEO Mark Roberts.

“New low-emission vehicles and smart telematics solutions certainly have a part to play in the mix, but nothing has a bigger impact than changing the way people drive as they drive. Even the latest EV or hybrid vehicle driven poorly will underperform compared to a conventional vehicle driven optimally.”  

Roberts continues: ‘Without the support of your drivers – and a tangible shift in the way they drive for the better – no matter how much money you throw at technology, you’ll struggle to shift the dial. What’s required is fundamental, lasting change in the behaviour of your mobile workforce to reduce inefficient, risky or aggressive driving styles. The big question is, how?” 

Lightfoot has developed in-cab technology that monitors driver behaviour. With visual and audible alerts, drivers are guided to drive in a more efficient manner, and instant feedback ensures that the driver can recognise where he or she could improve. Fleet operators can award prizes to the drivers achieving the best score, and league tables encourage a friendly but competitive spirit. 

“All drivers have to do is achieve ‘Elite Driver’ status by keeping their Lightfoot score at 85 or above,” says Roberts.

“It’s at this point that drivers can enter weekly competitions to win a host of prizes. It’s also the point at which Lightfoot helps businesses make fuel savings of up to 15%, reducing harmful emissions by as much as 15%, at-fault accidents by up to 40%, and wear and tear costs by 45%. Lightfoot’s in-cab devices let the driver know at the end of each journey how they’ve scored, reinforcing positive driving style and encouraging those dipping below 85 to be better.” 

Civil engineering firm Skilled Labour Services says it has seen incidents of high-risk driving from its fleet drop by two-thirds since installing Lightfoot technology.

The organisation runs a fleet of 14 Vauxhall Combo vans without a dedicated fleet manager, and was therefore looking for a self-managing solution that would help to cut both fuel and vehicle bills, at the same time as helping its drivers to be safer on the road.

It said Lightfoot’s dashboard device improved fuel consumption by 4.9%, reduced idling by 4%, and cut CO2 emissions by almost 5%.

Adrian Hide, driver risk management consultant at Adrian Hide Consultancy, delves into the mechanics of telematics and what information they can provide: “Most telematic devices have the capability to measure harsh acceleration and braking, excessive cornering, as well as over a posted speed limit. The more sophisticated devices plug into the vehicles OBD port and monitor idling, gear selection and so on. If we take just three of the basic factors that can be monitored – acceleration, braking and cornering – these alone will provide some insightful data about the way in which a vehicle is being driven, safely or otherwise.” 

Hide continues: “The telematics devices are very clever in sensing when the acceleration was unnecessarily harsh or the braking too rapid. Using G-force sensors they can also detect cornering manoeuvres, alerting the driver in real time or recording the event for review later.” 

Highlighting immediate cost savings that can be made (without accounting for accident reduction), Hide suggests that 3-5% savings in fuel should be achievable, together with less wear on brakes, tyres and other mechanical components. He has recently launched an online safety course, Safer Van Driving, which is aimed at those new to van driving. A modular programme taking approximately 90 minutes to complete, it covers the basics essential to safe and legal operation.

The fitting of a dashcam can clearly encourage safer and more efficient driving, while also assisting in the reduction in the cost of accidents where the driver can be proven to be blame free. Richard Gladman, head of driving and riding standards at IAM RoadSmart, warns that the camera is not a substitute for good driver behaviour. “It will tell the story of an incident from its own perspective, whoever is to blame. But if we are behaving properly and maintaining  [IAM RoadSmart’s] Advanced driving standards on the road, the extra information afforded by the camera, should an incident happen, will of course be beneficial.”

Van manufacturers are now introducing their own telematics systems, often included as standard equipment. Mercedes-Benz offers the Pro Connect technology on the Vito and Sprinter vans, which consists of individual modules (some requiring an additional subscription). The technology allows for driver analysis, including fuel consumption and wear on components, while the brand’s Uptime allows remote status checking from 100 onboard sensors, enabling pre-emptive maintenance, reducing the likelihood of a breakdown. 

Working in a similar fashion, the Ford Pass Connect technology is now included with some of the company’s LCVs. Vehicle Health Alerts inform an operator of any issues with the van which, if left unattended could lead to downtime, while My Journeys records driver behaviour and highlights harsh braking, acceleration and harsh cornering. Fuel reports are available to download monthly, which enables comparison between drivers.


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