19th July 2018

How can fleet managers keep young at-work drivers safer behind the wheel?

Today’s fleet managers are ever more aware of and alert to the duty of care their personnel deserve and the increased penalties attracted under corporate culpability, at-work driving including grey fleet drivers and occasional journeys. Fleet drivers are often thought of as being older, so it’s very encouraging that road safety charity Brake has published what it perceives as best practice guidance for organisations with employees aged 17-to-24 who make business-related journeys on a regular or variable basis.

Brake1 opens by citing road traffic injuries as the leading cause of death amongst the 15-to-29 age group worldwide, while the 17-to-24 bracket accounts for 7% of licence-holders in the UK but represents 20% of seriously injured or killed drivers. They then identify at-work driving as riskier for drivers of all ages, business-related journeys comprising 24% of all road casualties in Britain in 2016, for example.

Statistics like these are very familiar to Trak Global Group, its various divisions having been addressing concerning figures like these since 2012, through innovative telematics technology keeping young, newly-qualified and fleet drivers safer by promoting and incentivising smooth driving. In the year to December 2015, 42% fewer accidents had occurred among Carrot’s policyholders compared with a market average of similar insurance products not incorporating some form of telematics. Carrot Insurance’s Risk Management/Claims Prevention team has made over 27,000 interventions amongst our 40,000+ policyholders since the start of 2015, with 65% of customers issued with an excessive speed warning committing no further breaches.

Brake commendably encourages fleet managers to become increasingly aware of young drivers’ tendency to underestimate how challenging driving can be at times, while overestimating their ability to react in dangerous situations. Younger adults’ biological need for increased levels of sleep is also discussed, along with how relatively modern challenges such as social media addiction and heightened perceived academic and social pressures often get in the way.

Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is addressed, with one study finding that 13% of 16-to-24-year-olds in the UK admitted to driving after having taken drugs. Overconfident hence risky driver behaviour, the importance of wearing a seatbelt, the stupidity as well as illegality of mobile phone use behind the wheel, peer pressure including from passengers, and the added risks of driving at night or while fatigued are also explored in Brake’s report.

We also believe that mental health is an important area for fleet managers to be mindful of, with a recent study from the Huffpost finding that 35% of young people aged 18-24 in the UK have experienced mental health issues in the last year2. Depression, anxiety, resultant feelings including anger and medication can all impact driver alertness and safety.

Nevertheless, despite all such findings and factors converging, it must be pointed out that 75-to-80% of young drivers are statistically proven to be capable, avoiding any collisions at all during their first two years behind the wheel3, and learning from their experience more quickly when it comes to not repeating single-vehicle accidents and various other events. Young drivers also typically adapt to evolving automotive technologies more readily.

Brake infers that fleet managers won’t be able to directly positively influence many of the tendencies young adults are prone to that are part and parcel of normal developmental changes, such as hormone and brain development. The emphasis is placed on better education, understanding and awareness, which are hoped will lead to measures being introduced to reduce the risk among young at-work drivers.

Technology is highlighted throughout the report as instrumental in addressing younger drivers’ statistically greater propensity to drive too fast, with speed-limiters, intelligent speed assistance (ISA) systems and telematics in particular recommended for use by fleet managers.

Telematics systems from ‘black box’ hardware to smartphone app-based solutions enable fleet managers to readily identify high-risk drivers and therefore provide proactive intervention such as added training and guidance. Incentivising young at-work drivers either through gamification and healthy competition against colleagues, or by introducing tangible rewards for safe driving, can prove effective as Carrot Insurance’s products demonstrate.

We agree that fleet driver safety, particularly when younger drivers are involved, begins at a grass roots level, starting with risk assessments, dialogues, awareness, empathetic policies and collateral, and perhaps even supervision akin to some elements of a graduated driving licence (GDL) approach. Following the Fleetmaster Young Driver Academy’s successful ‘on the job’ training and assessment programme for a utilities company, which resulted in a 56% reduction in avoidable claims and a 14% improvement in fuel economy, their recommendation to limit night-driving to ‘on call’ drivers authorised by their line managers particularly resonated with us.

The safety of fleet and young drivers is at the core of Trak Global Group’s technologies, so we are pleased to see organisations such as Brake Professional highlight and provide recommendations on enhancing the safety of these groups and indeed all road users.

Sources:

1. https://shop.brake.org.uk/products/managing-young-at-work-drivers
2. https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/one-in-three-young-adults-experienced-mental-health-issues-this-year-here-are-their-stories_uk_59cbc21ae4b053a9c2f59eea
3. https://www.fuelcardservices.com/one-in-five-new-drivers-crash-in-first-year-behind-the-wheel/
4. https://trl.co.uk/sites/default/files/PPR836%20-%20Investigation%20of%20young%20novice%20driver%20collision%20types.pdf
5. https://www.iamroadsmart.com/media-and-policy/newsroom/news-details/2018/01/10/young-drivers-not-learning-to-avoid-crashes-with-vulnerable-road-users-quick-enough—iam-roadsmart-report-finds