Leading from the front
With a fleet of vehicles travelling millions of miles a year, the safety of drivers and other road users is a high priority to Morrison Utility Services. Which is why it hopes its new full-time driver trainers will raise standards - and cut accidents, too.
With a fleet of more than 2,000 company vehicles and a workforce of approximately 3,000 people, driving is very much part of the day job for the majority of Morrison Utility Services employees.
It has been estimated that in the course of one year, the company's vehicles travel the equivalent distance from Earth to Mars and back - some 68 million miles! Given these great distances the safety of employees, other road users and pedestrians is top priority.
As a result, two dedicated driver trainers began work in May, assessing employees' driving skills and providing feedback and coaching across contracts throughout the UK.
As well as a major focus on improving driving skills, ensuring drivers have the right behaviour, attitude and focus is seen as key to safe driving.
Morrison Plant Services' commercial manager, Tony Raymond, explains: "In our business, safety is our licence to operate, and is at the core of everything we do. The number of vehicle accidents we are experiencing, whilst generally lower than the national average, is still unacceptable for us. It was clear we needed to be proactive in the way we addressed this issue and ensured that our health and safety culture amongst operatives and managers in the field, is extended to the vehicle fleet. Putting these two new driver trainers in place was a key part of that overall strategy."
Raymond adds: "When we looked at driver training and 'at work' driving risk management, we initially considered an out-sourced solution and went to leading risk management providers for their recommendations. Ultimately, we decided the best and most suitable option was to tailor our own program, relevant to our varied fleet and business needs.
"As well as being more flexible, which is necessary to fit in with the demands of our contracts, having our own dedicated in-house resource gives us the ability to really get under the skin of our business and tackle the specific issues that we face."
The driver trainers carry out post-accident interviews, driver training and assessments of drivers throughout the Morrison Utility Services' business. Drivers are selected for assessment based on their level of risk. New joiners, drivers under 25 years of age, high mileage drivers and those with a known traffic offence fall into the potentially high-risk category and need to be assessed.
Following the completion of an assessment and training session, successful drivers receive a certificate, which is recorded on their file to confirm they have successfully completed supplementary driver training.
Raymond says: "Everyone working on our contracts holds some form of specialist qualification and accreditation for their role within the business, but when it comes to driving there is just the one licence.
"We intend to ensure that each driver has received the relevant training and assessment for their entitlement, for example towing a trailer or driving large vans. These may have the same licence classification as a car but not everyone has the opportunity to become experienced in this type of driving."
Driver trainer Ian Roebuck says: "We highlight both the good and bad points at the end of the driving assessment and I think it is very important that the driver leaves with a positive and informed attitude to improving their driving style."
Neil Andrew, Morrison Utility Services' other driver trainer, continues: "The attitude we would like our drivers to have each time they drive is: "I am not going to have an accident". If that is the case, they are unlikely to have an accident, as they are far more focused and observant. Accidents happen usually because an observation has been missed, particularly if someone is driving when they are tired."
The team aims to train between 800 and 1,000 drivers a year and whilst the driving tuition focuses primarily on safety, the trainers also give advice on driving habits, which might be less fuel efficient or put extra wear and tear on their vehicles. The aim is to increase awareness of the effects of poor driving and the company's responsibility towards the environment as an operator of a large vehicle fleet.
Justifying the investment in driving training to the business has been made easier when the anticipated effect on insurance costs is taken into account. "Our goal is for no accidents, certainly zero blame accidents and we track both numbers very closely," says Raymond.
He says: "We are self-insured for our own damage costs and produce a detailed monthly breakdown in terms of data on claim costs, claim frequency and the average cost of claims to the business. Our insurer, Axa, has been a fantastic supporter of what we are trying to achieve, providing advice and support from their underwriters and claims specialists."
Raymond concludes: "This is a significant long-term investment for our business and is just one of a series of measures we are introducing in this area. Over recent years, we have invested in specialist vehicle insurance and risk management, partnered with our insurers on risk management and have now employed two in-house driver trainers. Improving driving skills and attitudes benefits not only our company, but also the communities in which we operate.
"We want to lead from the front in promoting safety whilst driving at work and this programme now forms part of our health and safety culture."