July 19, 2019

July 19, 2019 | Broker News

Driver wellbeing: A focus for almost all workplaces

Picture this scenario: it’s a crisp spring morning, and a frozen-meal delivery driver is about to turn into a customer’s driveway. He’s exhausted after being up all night with his new baby, so he doesn’t notice the neighbour reversing out of his garage next door.

As he turns the wheel, he’s distracted by a cat and he swerves – right into the neighbour’s letterbox.

There’s $2000 damage to the delivery van and several hundred dollars’ worth of ruined stock, while the driver has whiplash. Thank goodness for insurance, which will cover the repairs and the lost stock—but what about the other unforeseen costs of the incident?

The driver has suffered a neck injury and his GP has recommended four weeks off to recuperate. A replacement driver will need to be sought, adding more deliveries to the other drivers’ workloads, or hiring an expensive temporary employee and training them on company policy and procedure.

The customers who didn’t receive their deliveries will also need to be compensated, in the hope that they don’t take their business elsewhere.

The question is: could all of this have been avoided if the company had adequate driver wellbeing and risk management policies in place?

The statistics tell the story

Driving is not widely recognised as a dangerous profession, with many viewing jobs in industries such as mining as far riskier to personal safety. However, the statistics tell a different story.

Drivers who cover 40,000km per year have a 1 in 8000 chance of being killed on the job—a similar risk profile to someone working in a mine or quarry. Taking into account the additional risk of injury to themselves, their passengers, or other road users, it’s clear that driving is one of the highest-risk activities many employees undertake.

It’s not only long-haul truck drivers who are at risk; any employee who drives a vehicle for all or part of their role is vulnerable. This includes everyone from community health nurses and social workers through to tradesmen and project managers, says Mervyn Rea, Zurich’s Head of Risk Engineering. As such, most organisations could benefit from having a conversation about driving wellbeing.

“Each and every time there is a car crash, we at Zurich use a very conservative ‘times three’ factor. That is, we say that for every dollar paid in an insurance claim, there could be three more dollars in indirect and extra costs,” he says.

“Whether your focus is to protect your people, your assets or your bottom line – managing fleet risk effectively is a strategic imperative.”

Returning to an old-fashioned approach

Businesses don’t need the latest fleet management technologies to develop and implement good driver wellbeing policies. Rather, simple hands-on assessments of indicators such as fuel records and tyre wear can help employers gather information about individual driver behaviour.

While it may seem like an old-fashioned approach, business owners and managers also shouldn’t underestimate the importance of maintaining good communication with their drivers, so they feel comfortable discussing any issues which may arise – not only work-related, but also anything on a personal level that may be impacting their performance, such as stress, family problems or ill-health.

“If you can, over time, moderate your drivers’ behaviour behind the wheel to improve their style of driving, it will make them not only a safer driver but also a more economic driver,” says Mervyn Rea, Zurich’s Head of Risk Engineering.

“Those employers who invest into creating a safer driver experience, on average, fuel savings of 10% and their maintenance costs fall by 8%. These things will ultimately broaden the profit margin.”

It’s also important that employers and employees view their vehicle for what it is: an extension of their workplace. This means that OH&S policies and procedures apply, and care should be taken to include driving-specific items when creating these documents. For example, mandatory rest breaks, a limit on daily driving hours, or even having a physiotherapist come in to give advice on correct posture and managing fatigue or pain.

In the scenario above, perhaps if the manager had known about the exhaustion the driver was suffering, he could have swapped him to a factory-based role for a week or two, so he wasn’t required to drive. It’s likely that preventing this incident would have been much cheaper than remediating it, even after insurance is factored in, with appropriate risk engineering.

To find out more about Zurich’s risk engineering services, contact Mervyn Rea, Head of Risk Engineering, or your local Zurich representative.