Van profile: Iron Mountain

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Safety doesn’t sell say some fleet experts, but promote the financial argument for occupational road risk management and there is no debate.

Testimony to that is Iron Mountain, the global information storage and management company, which has recorded savings of millions of pounds across its UK and Ireland commercial vehicle operation.

Its national logistics general manager, Rory Morgan, was recently named van fleet manager of the year at the Fleet Van Awards (see page 42).

Since last year it has also started migrating its safe-driving processes to its mainland European operations.

The company, which has its UK HQ in London from where it manages a Ford-dominated leased with maintenance fleet of 190 vans plus 140 HGVs, is working with the European Transport Safety Council to promote the case for light commercial vehicle safety across the continent.

Morgan says that pre-2008 the company was “experiencing unacceptable levels of vehicle incidents” and did not have sufficient processes in place to improve the situation to the level aspired to.

Almost six years ago the company, facing “astronomical” insurance premium rises, formulated a business case for a comprehensive programme of driver assessment and training underpinned by a fleet safety policy. The case received leadership support and has ultimately led to significant reductions in the number of incidents and claims costs alongside numerous spin-off benefits.

“Initially we were aware that our costs were high but understood that the opportunity was there to reduce these significantly by introducing basic initiatives,” says Morgan.

“As we have progressed and invested more, we have seen further benefits.”

In 2008, Iron Mountain recorded a significant number of incidents at a cost of more than £500,000. Since then there has been a 74% reduction in incidents and a 63% reduction in own damage and third-party costs across a fleet that covered 8.8 million miles last year – and almost 29,000 miles per van.

There are also unquantifiable savings through service improvements and enhanced reputation
Other highlighted savings include:

  • A 31% reduction in insurance premiums over the past four years, including a near-9% cut in 2014
  • Maintenance cost reductions of 4.5% in the first year of initiatives, but increasing to more than 30% following the installation of GreenRoad’s in-vehicle driver behaviour telematics system across the fleet in 2011
  • A 7% fuel saving following defensive driving training

Indeed, Iron Mountain’s drivers “are so good”, according to the company’s insurer Zurich, that GreenRoad, which captures more than 100 different vehicle movements based on severity through its system, developed a special performance assessment rating for them. So many were in the ‘good’ zone (99.4%) last year that a tougher new ‘cool blue’ criteria was created and achieved by 90.6%. In addition, 44.8% of those drivers achieved ‘elite’ status.

As a result, GreenRoad says Iron Mountain has recorded the best results across its worldwide customer base.
All Iron Mountain drivers receive an annual driving assessment – there are also online assessments – and potential recruits are put through an assessment drive which they have to pass for a job interview to progress. Additionally, ad hoc assessments are carried out as part of any remedial coaching following an incident or concern over driver behaviour.

The initiatives have seen  the company transformed into a beacon of best practice. However, Morgan says: “The journey is far from over. While we have made incredible progress in reducing the number and severity of accidents, we still feel we can help our drivers do even better.”

Next on the agenda is accreditation to ISO 39001, the internationally-recognised road traffic safety management standard, and tighter telemetry targets.

The initial programme included launching the company drivers’ handbook online, introducing an online risk assessment programme as well as in-house driver assessment and training following the recruitment of trainers. A communication strategy with drivers was also implemented to help develop an on-road safety culture.

Additionally, drivers undertake walk-round vehicle checks supported by a weekly supervisor van audit to further aid health and safety compliance. Ad hoc checks are also undertaken at depot gates by driver trainers and supervisors.

That programme achieved outstanding results and was further improved with the introduction of driver behaviour telemetry, which has been the catalyst for the more recent fall in accident numbers and triggered further savings.

Critically, Iron Mountain acknowledged that managing work-related road risk was not a short-term fix and that it had to be managed on an ongoing basis.

Morgan says: “We now have a risk profile for each of our drivers and the trainers are tasked to reduce the scores collectively. The profile includes many areas of road safety such as driving licence and vehicle incident history.

“Telemetry scores are also fed into the system, as are tachograph and road traffic violations along with online and in-cab driving assessments.”

Managers reward safe driving with high street vouchers and red letter days and help those not doing so to improve.

“Initially we had to work hard, but over time these initiatives have become second nature,” he says. “We use performance indicators and continual development to measure progress and help us to reduce risk and subsequent cost.”

For example, ‘speed by speed zone’ monitoring within the telemetry system has been introduced and reports any violation of more than 4mph above any posted limit, although vans are limited to 70mph. Initially, Iron Mountain discovered that more than 30% of speeding incidents were recorded by 5% of drivers, but numbers have been dramatically cut.

That speed limit compliance improvement has also seen a significant drop in the number of Notice of Impending Prosecutions received by the company – from 45 in 2010 to 11 last year – suggesting, says Morgan, that employees were not only driving more safely on company business, but also in their own vehicles.

He adds: “There was a thought that introducing driver behaviour telemetry might impact on our productivity, but in fact our ‘on-time’ key performance indicator is consistently 99.97%. It shows that drivers don’t have to speed to get the job done and they feel more relaxed. They also report that their stress levels have reduced drastically.

“Our routes are arranged through a routing package and set to precise parameters taking into account road speeds and time required at each client location.”

Iron Mountain and Morgan have proved that managing occupational road risk delivers significant benefits and he is now spreading the gospel. He says: “We are only too glad to assist other companies to work on their risk reduction and happy to share initiatives and ideas.”

Morgan helped formulate Freight Transport Association’s Van Excellence Code of Practice and is chairman of its governance group for the next two years. Iron Mountain was the first company to achieve Van Excellence accreditation and driver Cameron Weir recently won the inaugural Van Excellence Driver of the Year competition.

Operating a fleet of 250 vehicles in 15 European countries outside the UK and Ireland, Morgan says: “Road safety benefits everyone. If every business adopted the stance we have, the roads would be safer.

“I have received excellent support from the executive and senior management teams because they consider it the right thing to do, but there must be a return on the business plan.”

As well as Morgan’s Fleet Van award, Iron Mountain has collected industry honours from Fleet News, road safety charity Brake, the British Safety Industry Federation as well as a Prince Michael International Road Safety Award.

Finally Morgan’s advice to fleet managers: “The basics are relatively easy and not cost or resource prohibitive. Work on getting the fundamentals right first and see the benefits before increasing investment.

“If you do decide to invest in driver behaviour telemetry, do not consider it a ‘silver bullet’, you have to adjust based on the information delivered to manage and increase benefits.”

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