When a fleet is transporting life-saving blood, vehicles must operate at peak efficiency – and so must their drivers.
NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) drivers frequently have to negotiate red lights, skirt directional bollards and perhaps undertake other hazardous manoeuvres to make their emergency deliveries.
Saving money by reducing the number of crashes, as well as in all other areas of fleet operation, means more cash can be channelled back into frontline NHS patient care.
It is therefore not surprising that occupational road risk management is a vital issue for NHSBT, which operates 172 light commercial vehicles in a fleet of 504 units.
NHSBT won the Fleet Safety Champion of the Year (Public Sector) Award from Fleet Van last year, but for national fleet services manager Larry Bannon occupational road risk management embraces far more than road safety.
“Vehicle reliability is essential. We can’t afford to have a vehicle sitting on the roadside,” he says.
“Donors give blood freely and we are very conscious of that. We don’t want to put their vital donations at risk when on the road.”
The NHSBT’s transport department does not transport organs – that responsibility is outsourced to specialist provider Amvale.
Most of the organisation’s occupational road risk policy has been in place for almost a decade, but there have been some remarkable recent improvements in accident rates.
In 2004, NHSBT vans were involved in 196 own-fault crashes, at a cost of £85,400. This had fallen to 36 in 2010/11, 22 in 2011/12 and 17 own-fault accidents in 2012/13, at a cost of £13,336.
The total number of incidents involving fleet vans fell to 29 in 2012/13, down from 38 in 2011/12 and 73 in 2010/11.
NHSBT supplies about two million units of blood a year to hospitals in England and north Wales.
Its fleet vehicles travel more than eight million miles a year and its vans clocked up 6.1 million miles in 2012/13, meaning the ratio of own-fault van accidents per mile driven was a staggeringly low 0.0000027 last year.
The catalyst for the reduction in incidents has been further improvements in analysing why they occurred and ‘tweaking’ driver training modules in association with supplier RAC Fleet Risk Management, along with increasing vehicle specification.
That has included the fitting of reversing cameras, speed limiters and ESC (electronic stability control) if available.
Increased focus on ensuring adequate braking distance
An initial four-day on-road and classroom-based driver training programme follows the principles of the police ‘Roadcraft’ programme, particularly focusing on anticipating situations. All drivers complete a one-day refresher course every two years.
Bannon says: “As a result of our analysis of why incidents happened, we have increased the training focus on encouraging drivers to maintain adequate braking distances to the vehicle in front.”