11th June 2017
Eye tests, iPhones, lease maintenance packages and Data Protection – a day in the life of a fleet manager
The UK’s fleet managers are working harder than ever at a time when more and more automotive technology, legislation, safety initiatives and other challenges are appearing on the radar. Okay, it’s fair to say that being able to consolidate all vehicular, driver and other data in a centralised fleet management system takes at least some pressure off them. And yes, monitoring and improving driver safety and efficiency with the help of telematics apps has also revolutionised the role; but all manner of additional considerations seem to land on their proverbial plates almost monthly.
Take eyesight, for example, which in the UK in specific relation to driving is merely appraised by a DVSA examiner when someone takes their driving test. Thereafter, it typically rests on the candour of fleet drivers as to whether they voluntarily report any eyesight concerns to their fleet managers. This week, the European Council of Optometry and Optics published a consensus paper which identified that the UK lags behind the rest of the EU when it comes to standards for driving vision, potentially increasing risk on the road1. Health and safety law sees employers responsible for any activity deemed ‘at work’, with driving very much encompassed. Fleet management is typically a very busy role but despite cynicism from IAM RoadSmart when interviewed by BusinessCar2, perhaps it’s time in wake of the EU report for fleet managers to mandate eyesight tests at least every two years for their fleet drivers?
Many fleet managers understandably feel a warm glow after ticking the ‘maintenance’ option when signing car or van leasing contracts, expecting to be able to rely on their contract hire brokers to care for their fleets’ servicing and repair needs. The consultants at FleetCheck have recently issued advice urging fleet managers not to assume that all vehicles under their care will be being maintained appropriately3. They warn that SMEs in particular are left vulnerable in this area due to confused responsibilities and a ‘circle of assumptions’, with employers (including fleet managers), drivers and leasing brokers each assuming that someone else is keeping on top of maintenance. Leasing companies have been known to operate maintenance service and repairs on a reactive rather than proactive footing, potentially leaving employers, who are ultimately responsible for safety, in an exposed position. This has been demonstrated by the commercial vehicle operating ban recently imposed4 on the director of a building supplies firm in the Midlands, who during the public hearing stated that he left vehicle maintenance to a colleague, assuming and hoping ‘everything was alright’ and that they were ‘dealing with things satisfactorily’.
With connected vehicles and the adoption of telematics solutions like Appy Fleet very much in the ascendancy, fleet managers are increasingly taking steps to gear themselves up for new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)5 that will take effect in late May 2018. GDPR specifically focusses on technology and digitisation of data, so in addition to the large volumes of data already stored, accessed and processed by fleet managers, from drivers’ licence statuses and convictions to health information and addresses, those responsible for overseeing organisations’ vehicles will soon also need to ensure that they interact with connected vehicle-generated data compliantly.
Fuel is still one of the hottest topics in the worlds of motoring and fleet management, with many organisations striving to embrace alternatively-fuelled vehicles as quickly as possible where feasible. To add another dimension to the petrol vs. diesel vs. AFV debate, FuelGenie has recently published research identifying that businesses could cut their monthly fuel expenditure by up to 3% by encouraging or indeed specifying that their fleet drivers must use supermarket forecourts6. Okay, it’s not a huge saving but, to pinch Tesco’s motto, ‘every little helps’.
It’s still fairly common to see drivers holding mobile phones to their ears whilst in control of cars, vans and larger vehicles, despite it now thankfully being illegal. Some fleet managers may therefore be pleased to learn of the new Do Not Disturb While Driving feature integrated as part of Apple’s iOS 11, which prevents notifications popping up when an iPhone is connected to a vehicle by Apple CarPlay or Bluetooth in general. Social media, relentless emails and other apps have resulted in many of us becoming addicted to our smartphones, which is a particularly dangerous temptation for drivers. The ability for iOS 11-based phones to remain dark and silent while connected to driven vehicles is therefore universally welcome, strong support having been expressed by the AA and RAC, who have joined with the government’s THINK! road safety body to launch the campaign ‘BePhoneSmart’.
Despite the fleet management role having morphed to become more all-encompassing than ever, it’s fair to say that with continuous education, encouragement and training provided through the media and various other organisations and solutions providers, it’s certainly achievable to keep ‘at work’ drivers safe on the road.
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