The final set of U.K. Lockdown restrictions have now been lifted allowing for some further freedoms in how we go about our daily lives. Although many businesses across the country will choose to err on the side of caution and keep many safety precautions in place, we will likely see a large number of people return to their workplace in the coming months in one form or another. With this in mind, the next step of the process is upon us and those responsible for fleets will be looking a; how they can safely get drivers and vehicles that may have been at a standstill for quite some time, back on the road and b; how they can support drivers who have been on the road throughout lockdown transition to the increased levels of traffic that are to be expected as a result of the country being fully “Open for Business”.
The situation on the ground: Firstly, breakdown service provision over the summer period. The RAC has advised us that ordinarily, around 5 million people go abroad for their summer holiday. This year it will be approximately 0.5 million. The majority of the difference will be holidaying in the British Isles and using their cars. All the breakdown providers will be under tremendous pressure over this period. Please follow the advice below concerning vehicle condition but importantly wait times will be extended, which will no doubt be a situation that could be unpleasant. Any upfront actions that can minimise the need to use the breakdown service will pay dividends.
Also, the RAC is no different from any other large business in that they have many staff isolating. We are working with them to help the situation as much as possible. They may have expanded overtime provision, secured extra patrol vehicles, and are training other departmental staff to take calls.
During the lockdown, a large number of fleet managers lost working time due to the pandemic, many will have had job role changes or been furloughed. The impact for many organisations, means there has been a void of invaluable in-house knowledge and expertise. With more and more drivers back on the road and more persons with responsibility back in the business, now is the perfect time to ensure that drivers are kept up to date and do everything they can to be safe in their company vehicles.
Check and prepare your vehicles: The restricted servicing and MOT facilities throughout 2020 and into 2021 meant fewer drivers had their vehicles checked. Ensuring the entire fleet is insured, serviced and MOT’d is essential. A vehicle health check is vital for keeping an eye on efficiency and driver safety. Ensuring that the vehicles are up to date should be at the top of fleet managers’ and drivers’ checklist to ensure driver safety, early detection can keep costs and accidents to a minimum.
Plan and check tyres regularly following the Kwik Fit “Looking after your tyres” guide or take advantage of their free tyre check at one of their centres.
Educating your drivers: The pandemic, as well as changes in laws and technology, has driven the need for increased driver education. Respondents to a recent Verizon Connect survey suggest that almost three in five (58%) reported that following health and safety regulations such as social distancing had made the business less efficient. Driver safety needs to remain at the pinnacle of the fleet’s priority.
On a wider note, are you on top of your fleet administration and database? Have the drivers left, changed roles, or do you need to inform them of changes to the policy?
Mobile devices: The reliance on technology throughout the pandemic has been greater than ever, with companies and employees across the country adopting new ways to communicate and work remotely. It has been widely noted that for many, the draw of collaborative working tools available as mobile apps which commonly used to speak with clients, suppliers and colleagues are not always easy to switch off from. Any use of a mobile device whilst driving is a distraction and cost lives. The laws and penalties for using a mobile device in vehicles have recently been tightened so, it is well worth a reminder to drivers.
Driver rest rules are broken by a quarter of commercial drivers: Staffing issues due to illness from Covid and financial cutbacks have increased certain workloads. Increased workloads could mean more rushing and fewer breaks therefore drivers need to build in suitable rest stops and allow for longer journey times. Meanwhile, CommercialFleet.org accounts that U.K. Driver rest rules are broken by ‘one in four’ commercial drivers. One suggestion, to improve driver safety could be to offer incentives for safer driving. Telematics can increase the visibility of fleet managers to optimise the fleet strategy to manage risk.
Make time for driver wellbeing: The looming end of this lockdown and the return to the office is a major change. In many cases, it is a time of joy and relief. However, for many others, the pandemic has increased anxieties, potentially increased exposure to loneliness due to social distancing and lockdown rules. The combination of low job security during furlough combined with the constant reminders of the Covid-19 variants has highlighted the need for better mental health practices at work. Drivers need to be able to talk to someone at work to air their concerns and seek reassurance or in certain cases take action.
If you have queries about your fleet, then please do not hesitate to contact the JCT600 VLS team who will be happy to assist you.