If your customer asked for visibility of your GPS data as part of your H&S records, what would be your reaction?

We are working with a number of customers of transport fleets on this very topic. As H&S continues to pervade every corner of your business, we have developed a service which allows your fleet to self -report compliance to your customers without providing total visibility. Because one driver making one mistake on one day is not representative of your fleet profile, but to the novice reader it can jeopardise a long standing relationship. We want to focus on the overall fleet profile, not the one offs. But how does your overall fleet profile stack up?

In my experience, transport fleets are much more presentable now, in a H&S sense, than they were 10 years ago. Top speeds have come down, average driving speeds have come down, and this is supported by MoT stats and surveys too. Log books are less of a lie book than they were and, on average, standards are improving.

As with any average though – the efforts of a few fleets to make a difference is still offset by some fleets that have not yet addressed their on road H&S issues. Of the fleets we start work with, we have some exemplary fleets and some, quite frankly, scary fleets.

Making a difference is all about motivation. I get that transport is about keeping customers happy and making money. Tackling speed, fuel efficiency, log book issues and idling can seem like an unnecessary chore, and definitely lower priority than making money.

You only have to attend the NZTA Rollover workshops to understand that failing to address these issues can spend all of your hard earned revenue in the blink of an eye. I’ve spent some time with a number of fleets recently who are just embarking on the journey of improving their safety culture. Despite the similarities in their businesses, the approach of each manager is very different.

Will you approach it as a project, a team effort with tool box talks and targets? Or will you treat it as a disciplinary process if the driver continues his habits of the last 20 years into the next 4 weeks?
Will you review your GPS data and understand what is best practice within your own vehicles and use this as initial target for all trucks or will you send your drivers on a simulated driving course and hope an external driver trainer will stumble upon the magical trigger to improve your fleet? Perhaps introducing some alerts into the cab is the answer?

There is no right answer. There is only improvement when your approach to safety is embedded as a part of the wider culture in your fleet. Yelling at your drivers to slow down is a fast track to being able to complain about the driver shortage. Creating a supportive environment for your drivers to operate large, heavy vehicles, for extended hours every week, on highways peppered with mom, pop and teen drivers, is the most effective approach I have seen. Incrementally improving performance from one week to the next, celebrating successes, understanding the challenges to achieving at the next level and open discussions with your drivers works.

All of the tools I have mentioned above have a role, but only you can decide which ones you use all of the time, and which as a last resort. We have recently started work with a fleet who has been working away on this with his drivers for over a year and he knew they were better than they used to be. What he didn’t know was whether they were “good enough” yet.

We talked about driving down particular pieces of road and how their style has changed over this time. “We used to roll down this hill to get up the other side, but that isn’t OK any longer.” We also talked about how the drivers act within the fleet, and it’s a nice place to be, it’s a good group of guys. They look after the gear, they are polite and helpful, they are proud of their fuel consumption and they are working the same hours as other fleets in the area, but not experiencing the same level of fatigue as some of those other drivers. Is it worth it? “Hell yes!”

So, if your customer wants visibility of your GPS data for H&S monitoring, put yourself in a position where you are at the front of the queue to share your fleet stats. If your customers aren’t asking yet, they might do next year.

If this is something you haven’t started on yet, be clear in your own mind of your motivations – there are some compelling objections ahead, but some sound financial and commercial reasons to keep pushing ahead.