In recent years, concerted efforts have been made by van fleets to raise the standards of work-related road safety.

While vans – and their drivers – may not be subject to the same strict regulations of driver training, driver hours restrictions and roadworthiness testing as HGVs, there have been positive moves among operators to introduce best practice standards.

Road risk management programmes have become commonplace, underpinned by health and safety policies and tech solutions dedicated to monitoring and improving driving performance.

But, over recent months, fleets have had a lot to contend with.

While the pandemic may have acted as forced pilot in some quarters, catapulting all areas of risk management up the business agenda, others could be forgiven for prioritising their bottom line above all else. 

There can be little room for complacency, however. Indeed, the legal, reputational and financial costs of cutting corners when it comes to managing risk can be business critical.

Taking the pulse of road safety

According to a study conducted by Highways England and charitable partnership Roadsafe, one in three (29%) road fatalities and one in five (21%) casualties occur as a result of driving-for-work collisions.

More recent research from Webfleet Solutions, meanwhile, has shone a spotlight on the biggest areas of concern among UK commercial fleet managers. 

Nearly three-quarters (73%) of those surveyed for the company’s ‘European Road Safety Report 2021’ claimed poor driving behaviour negatively impacted their business, with 65% recognising that it also risked harming their company’s reputation.  

Respondents were most worried about their drivers’ habits behind the wheel: specifically the use of mobile phones and other devices (71%), followed by speeding (69%), eating
or drinking while driving (68%), and driving while fatigued (67%).

High accident rates and insurance claim incidents have appeared to justify these concerns. The study found that 68% of UK commercial fleets are involved in road collisions every year, with 61% of decision makers saying that, on average, they have at least one insurance claim a month made against their company by other road users.

Tackling the numbers

Traditional van driver perceptions may be outdated, but stereotypes can still be difficult to shake even when they are held by the minority. 

Tarnished by the ‘white van’ reputation often associated with small independent trades, many drivers may be unfairly maligned. As the number of vans on the road and people working in the gig economy continues to rise, efforts to improve standards – and to put these myths to bed – must continue.

Taking a reading of current driving standards to identify where problems exist, setting performance benchmarks and establishing targets for improvement are appropriate first steps for those with van fleet responsibilities.

Here, telematics can be a valuable technology partner, delivering a range of performance information, from data on speeding and idling to harsh steering or braking – all in real time. 

WEBFLEET, for example, Webfleet Solutions’ software-as-a-service fleet management system, will not only highlight where fleet performance is falling below expected levels, but also enable management to determine which drivers are contributing to problem trends. Furthermore, the platform can even empower drivers to make positive changes themselves by offering in-vehicle coaching.

An eye on the van

Integrated camera systems expand on the fleet visibility offered by telematics platforms, providing further opportunities to enhance driver safety.

WEBFLEET Video combines Webfleet Solutions’ vehicle and driving data with advanced machine vision and artificial intelligence-powered camera technology to give managers a more complete picture of how their vans are operating. 

Not only does this give them a better understanding of the reasons behind driving incidents – while alerting drivers to correct their behaviour before accidents occur – the video footage also provides clear evidence in the event of insurance claims. This can
help protect drivers from non-fault claims and enable education and training to be better targeted.

The tech route to stress management

By utilising these technology tools and enshrining health and safety principles within van fleet policies, an appropriate tone can be set for all employees that encapsulates core risk-awareness tenets. 

This should be supported by strategies to improve emotional well-being. Van drivers have, after all, long been exposed to a myriad of pressures – from tight delivery windows to the frustrations of traffic congestion. These can have a considerable impact on their working lives, serving to heighten stress levels.

Telematics solutions that ease the administrative burden by digitising a range of tasks, from mileage capture to vehicle safety checks, can once again help here. What’s more, navigation and routing systems that incorporate live traffic information enable companies and drivers to plan around delays, leading to marked reductions in journey times.  

By employing such telematics tools to safeguard driver safety and well-being, van fleets can rest assured that they have laid the foundations for best practice in professional standards.