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A desire to ensure that a pro-active, robust and comprehensive occupational road risk management strategy is in place prompted specialist industrial water treatment company, Feedwater Ltd, to involve leading provider DriveTech.
Although Wirral-based Feedwater had seen its incident rate fall significantly over the last three years, the company takes the view that ‘one crash is one too many’.
As a result of the company’s year-on-year reduction in crashes and claims experience, coupled with this year’s introduction of a four-stage at-work driving risk management programme, Feedwater has seen its 2008/9 insurance premiums drop by a third.
We believe in employee training and development and we see driver training as a benefit both to individual members of staff and the company.If people have a better awareness of how they drive they should be safer. That will then pay off for them in their personal life and it also the company
Sales director Steve Walker
“Other companies may consider that we have a low incident record, but we take the view that there is always room for improvement. We believe our risk management programme is a good initiative that demonstrates to our staff that we are a caring company. Prevention is better than cure,” added Mr Walker.
Feedwater provides water treatment chemicals and consultancy services to operators of steam boilers, closed systems and cooling towers at industrial and commercial organisations to minimise the risk of Legionnaires’ disease and also reduce the operating costs and risks for customers. The company operates a fleet of 40 vehicles including 28 cars, six light commercial vans, three LGVs and three forklift trucks. Also, five employees drive their own cars on business and short term rentals are used when needed.
In total more than 50 employees went through the tailored risk management programme, which saw:
Tony Thomas, Feedwater’s procurement manager, who has fleet responsibility and oversaw the initiative, said: “Issues around mobile phone use, drink-driving and corporate manslaughter have gained increasing media coverage.
“We updated our company car policy handbook earlier this year and, on the back of that and the increasing publicity around road safety, the driver training initiative was implemented as a safety and support programme. We decided that, while we were a safety-focused company and had many at-work driving risk management areas covered, there was still room for improvement. I didn’t feel that we stood up robustly in the light of the increasing amount of legislation targeted at vehicles driven on business.
“I congratulated our drivers on helping the company to reduce its incident record, but also said that further steps could be taken. If we don’t take action to continue to reduce our risk exposure then that risk will heighten.”
He explained: “Although a handful of drivers were sceptical, the programme was very well received. No-one said the initiative was a waste of time. In fact most employees enjoyed what was offered and subsequently said they had benefited.”
Annual mileage across the company is around 900,000 miles, with some employees travelling up to 40,000 miles a year on business.
The launch of the risk management programme was the culmination of two years of work that included ensuring company cars - Ford Mondeos, Mazdas, Skoda Octavias, Vauxhall Vectras and Volkswagen Passats - had achieved at least four-star ratings in European New Car Assessment Programme crash tests.
In the future, Mr Thomas is considering restricting the company’s vehicle choice list by ensuring that all cars have electronic stability control fitted as standard.
The van fleet is dominated by Ford Transits and Transit Connects, fitted with a range of safety-related extras including a passenger airbag, steel bulkhead and visibility pack (electrically-operated and heated door mirrors and Quickclear heated windscreen), seat pack (driver’s seat adjustments) and air conditioning.
Mr Thomas said: “A vehicle is a driver’s place of work so it is important that they have a safe and comfortable environment in which to operate.”
Commenting on the decision to work with DriveTech, Mr Thomas said: “I looked at a number of the major risk management providers and DriveTech was the most pro-active. They had also worked with a number of companies operating in business sectors similar to ourselves.
“DriveTech made the training enjoyable for our staff, relaxed them and made sure they learned from the programme. I have now detected a greater confidence among the drivers.”
The benefits of the programme have been many and varied and they will continue to accrue as targeted refresher training is introduced on an ‘as and when basis’ and new staff complete the course.
Mr Thomas explained: “The safety message has been further underlined by the recent rises in fuel prices, which highlighted the importance of respecting speed limits, not just from a safe driving aspect but also from a need to improve fuel economy.
“While some costs as a result of crashes are quantifiable, other costs are not, such as appointments being delayed, deliveries being late and the hassle of administration. Therefore, reducing the likelihood of our drivers being involved in crashes has a two-fold effect as both direct and indirect costs will reduce.”
DriveTech Business Development Director Matt Rapier said: “The company and drivers had huge enthusiasm for the programme that we devised to meet their requirements. The company’s incident record was already very good and so it's employees had not been involved in any serious crashes.
“However, within the business there was a clear desire to ensure they were at the forefront of operating the very best risk management programme. The attitude of Feedwater is to be applauded and the business will reap the rewards not only in terms of reduced fleet-related costs, but also in employing a workforce that is more productive and respects the company for its caring attitude towards their welfare.”
Feedwater’s risk management initiative was part-funded by a grant through SkillWorks, part of the Learning and Skills Council. It helps local SMEs to further develop and opens the door to possible funding under various programmes co-financed by the European Social Fund and the Learning and Skills Council.