Safety is paramount for short break holiday operator, Center Parcs, which is why the company has introduced additional equipment to its vehicles and is putting staff through a comprehensive occupational road risk management programme.
A radical operational review saw Center Parcs switch its 150-strong fleet from contract hire to outright purchase and the appointment of independent fleet management specialists CLM to source, manage and dispose of vehicles.
While many of the vehicles are, unusually, low mileage and low speed - typically limited to 10 mph in the organisation’s four resorts - vehicle damage was significant. As a result, the company, when leasing, was exposed to significant end-of-contract refurbishment charges.
The move to outright purchase prompted CLM to recommend action being taken to reduce vehicle damage and, consequently, keep repair bills under control and protect residual values.
Initially, newly acquired vehicles were all equipped with electric wing mirrors that can be angled down to reveal obstacles and, while cars and vans already had reversing sirens to warn holidaymakers, they have now been equipped with parking sensors front and rear to assist drivers undertaking low speed manoeuvres.
The predominant form of transport within the villages is bicycle; indeed, for many guests the opportunity to cycle safely as a family is key to the appeal of a Center Parcs break
Center Parcs’ UK projects manager Mike Henderson
Meanwhile, CLM, which offers a comprehensive one-stop shop occupational road risk management programme, DriveAssured, brought in its driver risk management and training company partner DriveTech (UK) to provide a range of solutions to reduce crash exposure.
Center Parcs has four UK holiday villages - Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire, Longleat in Wiltshire, Elveden Forest in Suffolk, and Whinfell Forest in Cumbria - each typically covering 400 acres and providing high quality accommodation in fully equipped villas, apartments and holiday lodges.
Center Parcs’ UK projects manager Mike Henderson said:“There are no pavements and the road edges are delineated by nothing more than the occasional wooden post or large boulder - all very rustic but, as the battle-scarred bodywork of the outgoing vehicles testified, an easily unseen hazard for any driver working to a tight, multi-drop schedule.”
In addition, to improving the ‘fit for purpose’ aspect of vehicles with extra safety-focused specification, the comprehensive three-pronged DriveTech programme has seen:
•Newly appointed vehicle safety co-ordinators appointed at each of the villages. Their responsibility is to oversee each site’s vehicle safety and to ensure that line managers have safe driving policies in place and adhere to them. DriveTech risk assessors looked at each of the four sites and put forward a series of recommendations. The vehicle safety co-ordinators were then trained to ensure that newly compiled risk assessments are adhered to, and to recommend and write policies on key issues such as mobile phone and walkie-talkie use when driving.
•Although vehicle safety co-ordinators are responsible for writing the safe-driving policies, it is line managers who implement them. As a result, around 30 line managers at the villages have attended DriveTech workshops, where best practice policies and procedures were outlined - regular vehicle safety checks, ensuring drivers logged vehicle keys in and out etc. - to enable a comprehensive audit trail of vehicles and drivers to be compiled.
•Between 25 and 30 assessors across the four villages have been trained to enable them to assess the driving skills of their colleagues. Chosen assessors are typically long-time members of staff with a sound safe driving record. After assessing the driving skills of colleagues, they make recommendations for further action if required, that might be classroom-based or could extend to on-the-road training with DriveTech. With approximately 100 drivers at each site, up to 400 people are in the process of being assessed.
While the fleet includes a mix of light commercial vehicles, cars, people carriers and minibuses, the Longleat village also has two land trains which are used to ferry holidaymakers around the resort. Due to the length of these vehicles it was felt that drivers should undergo a bespoke training programme, which was created from scratch by DriveTech.
Chris Allgood, CLM client relationship manager, said: “Vehicle damage costs were very high so when we won the contract to work with Center Parcs it was important that we managed down those costs.”
“We have already seen a significant reduction in vehicle damage as a result of the measures taken in the first six months of working with Center Parcs and we expect financial savings to continue to accrue.”
Mr Henderson added: “Our idyllic woodland settings are what Center Parcs is all about, but they do present challenges for vehicles and drivers working in this environment. As a responsible employer safety is paramount and even more so with thousands of visitors to each resort.”
“It was therefore vital that, from a health and safety point of view, we took action to minimise our risk exposure. However, because image is also vital it is important that all our vehicles are in tip-top condition.”
DriveTech business manager Matt Rapier added: “Center Parcs has a unique vehicle fleet that operates in very unusual conditions. The actions that we have taken in partnership with CLM and Center Parcs will enable the organisation to deliver on its duty of care responsibilities, while continuing to ensure that visitors have a fantastic holiday in the knowledge that vehicles are being operated safely.”