Is it Your Duty to Care


Why duty of care is important for fleet managers and how you can protect yourself better

As duty of care becomes a more prominent issue within Australia, it leaves fleet managers wondering how this fits into their daily operations and whether they are potentially exposed to OHS legislation.

Duty of care involves clarifying the safety processes and where responsibility lies to ensure they are upheld. Organisations have a duty of care to their employees and the public alike, which is enforced by various laws and regulations.

Essentially, for fleet managers there are two components to duty of care. One is regarding the vehicles themselves and the other is regarding their drivers.

The procurement and maintenance processes have expectations around them that the best cars and parts are sourced/used for the vehicles in the fleet. This is all to ensure the duty of care to the drivers as well as other road users. There are expectations for the drivers that the organisation has equipped them with the knowledge and skills necessary to safely operate the vehicle as well as having their deficiencies identified. This works to accurately flag high risk drivers and allow for interventions to be put in place.

To successfully manage these expectations, fleet managers must have adequate visibility over their fleets to ensure that issues are dealt with in a timely matter and don’t turn into larger, reactive problems.

A lack of visibility

There are a few key issues that have the tendency to turn into large problems for fleet managers if they are not dealt with correctly. Damage to pool vehicles and traffic infringements are relatively straightforward issues when dealt with one on one, or with a small fleet, but when you begin to multiply them and imagine them expanding across a larger fleet, they can be a headache for fleet managers.

When working with a fleet, it is important to keep a record of damage or maintenance issues to vehicles and monitor the state of the car for a number of reasons, including insurance accountabilities and proactive maintenance. However, by having physical log books for all of this information, you run into issues around accuracy of information and visibility during the life of the vehicle.

When potential maintenance issues aren’t identified, such as worn tyres, you risk larger issues, like a blown tyre, which could potentially cost the company more than a simple change of tyre would, especially if it causes and accident. When fleet managers don’t have visibility of the state of the car during its life, the responsibility falls on the drivers to identify the issue and bring it to the attention of the managers, something that can be an unreliable.

This is also the case for traffic infringements. If a driver is accumulating multiple infringements in a month, they are in a position to receive interventions to decrease this behaviour and educate them on proper driving etiquette. However, if there has been no record of who was driving a pool vehicle at the time of the incident, the company is forced to pay the corporate fine. When good systems are in place, this can be avoided, but a lack of visibility means that issues are allowed to continue with no repercussions for drivers for, potentially, years at a time.

Clarity on duty of care

When people aren’t clear about who is responsible, things tend to fall through the gaps. It’s easier to say “that wasn’t my responsibility” than take ownership for it. For fleet managers, you need to ensure that everyone involved is aware of expectations and responsibilities.

A regimented processes ensures duty of care is effective within a fleet. A process for logging damage, maintenance issues, and traffic infringements gives accountability where it’s due and visibility to the fleet manager of the state of their fleet.  

Implementing fleet management software is one way in which both responsibility and processes can be communicated and implemented. Electronic systems also help alert managers of any potential safety issues and provides a platform to communicate important information to their drivers.  To be an effective system, input must be easy and not seem like a barrier. When processes become hard, the systems fail.

Empowering your fleet management processes

By using an effective fleet management software package to address the major issues of duty of care, your organisation will gain two main benefits:

  1. Reduced costs and improve resell values

The first is a reduction in the costs associated with a vehicle when the time comes to sell it. If the vehicle has been well maintained and any damage accounted for, fleet managers will be able to maximise the return on the vehicle at time of disposal.

  1. Safer working environment

Finally, and probably most importantly, it ensures a safer working environment for your employees. By identifying high risk drivers based on their damage and infringement history, you are able to put intervention strategies in place to improve the quality of their driving, therefore increasing the safety for themselves and other road users.  You are also able to identify vehicle issues that could potentially cause an accident.

By implementing fleet management software that incorporates inspection functions, electronic log books and a paperless defleeting process, you are able increase the level of efficiency for identifying deficiencies and discrepancies among vehicles and vehicle users, ultimately resulting in higher safety standards and increased value of vehicles when on-selling.