For many transport managers, dealing with damaged vehicles is part and parcel of their job.

Speaking to someone recently from a major operator of light commercial vehicles, they described the condition of many of their vehicles “as if someone had rolled them down a hill”. The reality is, body damage is a serious issue for many van operators, with scrapes, broken wing mirrors, knocked panels and scuffed bumpers making a serious dent in a company’s profit margins.

But is achieving zero damage an impossible dream?

If we accept that most accidents happen due to human error, then hopefully not. Damage is typically incurred due to complacency, inattention, impatience, a lack of observation and concentration, and poor hazard perception. It also happens because many people don’t question it, nor believe they can solve it.

But how do we change attitudes and improve driver behaviour, and can we crack the problem simply by putting drivers through on-road or web-based driver training?

In my mind, these courses will help, but for wholesale change it takes more than that.

There needs to be a cultural shift, and this takes time. Look, for example, at what’s happened in the construction sector, where hard hats, steel-capped boots and on-site safety are ‘the norm’. Here is proof that it is very achievable to change long-term attitudes. In fact, the next time you drive past a construction site and see a banner promoting the company’s accident-free record, think how that could be achieved with your fleet.

The starting point needs to be with the board – go to them, show them what vehicle damage is costing the business and get buy-in for a programme of long-term change. Also, ensure your plan is as much about comms as it is about training. And don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done, nor that it is a ‘fact of life’.

The UK smoking ban in all enclosed work spaces came into force in the summer of 2007. A dozen years on and it’s not just illegal, it’s culturally unacceptable to smoke in areas where others will be impacted. There’s no better example of a major cultural shift I’m sure many thought could not be achieved.

So, if you are suffering the constant struggle of drivers causing vehicle damage, think long-term and start your journey towards a zero-tolerance culture today.

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CV Advice is produced in association with Grosvenor Leasing

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