We all do it: Will I take an umbrella or risk getting wet? Will I leave five minutes earlier or take a chance on the traffic being light? Should I charge my smartphone again or trust that the battery will hold out? Sometimes it only takes milliseconds to answer these questions in our heads, but it can also take much too long at times. Usually: the more information I have, the better and faster I can assess the underlying risk and act accordingly.
Everyone is a risk manager
We get the necessary information in different ways. Sometimes we query the present situation (What’s the weather like?), draw on experience (What’s the traffic normally like?) or assess the worst case (Will I perhaps miss an important call?). Fleet managers use similar tools for their risk management – for undoubtedly more important questions. Ultimately, the aim is to avoid potential risks for vehicle drivers and the fleet.
From groundwork ...
The top priority of course is to ensure that the company vehicles are in a proper condition technically. Anyone who sends drivers out onto the road with an expired main inspection (HU)1 or with obvious defects is notoriously negligent, risks being fined1 and may even be liable to prosecution – to say nothing of expensive repairs and downtimes because maintenance intervals were not observed. Fleet managers are exposing themselves to the same risk if they allow company cars to be used improperly. The legislator in Germany, for instance, has therefore prescribed that driver instruction be carried out once a year in topics such as driving times and rest periods, load safety and generally correct behaviour while driving (see the box at the end of the article for details). According to a study carried out by ADAC, most accidents continue to be the result of human error and not technical defects.
For this reason alone, therefore, one should not simply stop at the legal minimum requirement for instruction to achieve effective risk management. Regular training, safety training, anti-stress courses etc. have proven to be a reliable means of measurably reducing the damage rate in everyday fleet practice. Meanwhile, potential bonuses for having no accidents or getting no traffic tickets offer additional motivation for ensuring that company cars are handled with care.
... to systematic optimisation
As mentioned at the beginning, effective risk management in fleet practice depends primarily on the available data. Potential hazards can ultimately only be accurately assessed if the underlying information is as broadly based as possible. The most powerful tool in this regard is a functioning reporting system.
Important findings can be made based on intelligent analyses, for example in relation to distances or types of use. Is the breakdown or accident rate especially high with a certain type of vehicle? Can a correlation be made with the volume of traffic? Does a particular employee stand out? The wealth of knowledge accumulated can then be incorporated in turn into the training measures mentioned above to complete the circle.
A number of tools have proven useful in this regard, including FleetCARS, the established fleet management and reporting tool from Volkswagen Financial Services AG and We Connect Fleet* from the Volkswagen Group. When properly used, both tools complement each other ideally and provide the perfect solution for clever fleet management.
Fleet managers gain a vast store of important information on vehicles, drivers and contracts via the associated web portals. For example, the location of company cars can be checked using We Connect Fleet and customer orders then assigned more efficiently on this basis. The digital expenses book in turn allows information on routes travelled and expenditure on fuel etc. to be accessed at all times.
Minimising risk with a smart companion
Driver assist systems are another important pillar of effective risk management. Distance warning, lane departure warning and other technologies should not be viewed as a “luxury” that act as a drain on budgets, rather as a valuable aid – particularly as the initial investment more than pays off if an accident is actually avoided. Fleet managers can again rely on the reporting data in order to equip fleet vehicles with such technologies systematically and according to need. That’s because a company car driver who clocks up the miles in a field service role will naturally need different systems to a service employee, for example, driving in urban traffic. Clever tools that ensure that drivers are not distracted by their mobile phones when on the road are recommended in this context. For example, by locking the mobile screen when the engine is running and automatically restricting the use of apps, thus only allowing the phone to be used as a mobile navigation system and for making hands-free calls.
Such precautionary measures definitely allow a fleet manager to sleep better. And they leave the mind free for more trivial matters, such as: Do I need an umbrella today? Or: Can I sleep for another five minutes before I have to leave?
1applies to Germany;
*currently available in Poland – additional markets to follow
News on the topic
Status: 30. November 2021
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