Occupational driving presents several key challenges for businesses looking to keep their workers safe when they are performing their job. With the rise of ride-share apps and the increase in individuals joining courier services, the landscape is changing with more earning a living on the roads. The temporary rise in unemployment due to the lockdown is likely to increase this trend in the short term.
With the rise of the pandemic and the health concerns around it, the issue of driver safety has rightfully risen up the list of priorities for many companies. Recently Uber has announced that screens are to be installed in their vehicles as a way of shielding their drivers from potential safety concerns. This approach has also been adopted in taxi firms.
The screens are set to be installed by the AA and along with the installation, a deep cleaning process will also be required. The change is an attempt to mitigate the safety risk for taxi and chauffeur drivers who have been found to be at a high risk of catching a potentially fatal case of COVID-19.
Driver safety technology will also be used to keep workers safe
In addition to the introduction of screens, Uber has also made changes to its app interface as a further means of improving driver safety. From now on, drivers will be encouraged to end trips immediately if they feel in any way unsafe. Riders will also have the opportunity to cancel trips if the driver is not wearing a face covering and can leave app-based feedback on the overall safety of the trip.
The introduction of new driver technology has also been accompanied by new accountability enforcement. With the help of the feedback function, Uber can analyse which riders and drivers may be repeatedly violating the new rules and remove their access to the Uber app.
This will be coupled with a series of app-based safety checks that the driver will need to undertake. Before they are allowed to ‘go online’ they will need to fill out the checklist which will confirm various safety measures including facial identification to confirm that the driver is wearing a face covering. Both these measures are an attempt to improve driver safety from the virus.
The same requirements will be placed on riders who will need to confirm they have taken the necessary precautions. Riders must confirm via the app that they have sanitised hands and adopted face coverings; they must also sit in the back with windows open to allow for proper ventilation.
As with any good driver safety strategy, education is key in ensuring the scheme is successful. Uber has begun to offer drivers tips on how they can increase the safety of their trips through their app. This will usually be triggered when the company learns of unsafe behaviour in a particular restaurant or area. This is an example of the intersection between tech-based safety management and behavioural safety practices.
Autonomous vehicles will also need to be managed from a driver safety perspective
Whilst the impact of the pandemic has changed the way we look at driver safety, the same thorough approach also needs to be applied to autonomous vehicles. The UK may be looking to introduce additional tests that will incorporate cybersecurity protocols before autonomous vehicles will be allowed on the roads. The main aim will be to monitor the security and connection of the self-driving vehicles and ensure the massive amounts of data they produce is safeguarded from nefarious uses.
The potential new requirements are a signal of changing attitude towards how we manage machinery both in the workplace and in daily life. From a driver safety perspective, having safe autonomous vehicles will be crucial especially as more companies make the switch to self-driving cars as a means of getting customers where they need to go.
The same change in thinking will also need to be applied to the courier service. Driver safety not only concerns the driver ‘or in this case the lack thereof’ it also concerns those around the vehicle, be them, pedestrians or employees.
With that in mind, companies will need to start investing in safeguards on autonomous vehicles so that they can be kept as safe as possible both in the workplace and on the roads. This will not be a quick fix process, as Kalra and Paddock (2016) outline developers and companies will need to demonstrate the reliability of vehicles in innovative ways, beyond mere mileage.
Why is driver safety important?
Driving remains a dangerous profession with the potential for lethal crashes ever-present and because of this developing a good strategy to manage the safety of fleet drivers is essential to your business and part of your duty of care as an employer.
Driver safety is not just the responsibility of ride-sharing firms and delivery companies, here are some of the other industries that should consider the impact of their vehicles:
- Company car industries
- Construction site vehicles
- Agricultural vehicles
- Warehouse operational vehicles
This non-exhaustive list shows the wide scope of industries that need to look at their driver safety and how it can be improved going forward.
If you manage a fleet and particularly one in a client-facing role introducing measures similar to the ride-sharing services could be a good first step. Beyond that, tech solutions exist which can help you monitor driver safety and ensure they are driving well on the roads. Similar tech can also be used to monitor the parameters of a vehicle to work out when it needs servicing and repairing.
Coupling any driver technology-based solutions you introduce with good behavioural safety practice will make sure there is good uptake of the new methods of working amongst your employees which is essential to making the changes you introduce as effective as possible.
Kalra, N. and Paddock, S.M., 2016. Driving to safety: How many miles of driving would it take to demonstrate autonomous vehicle reliability?. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 94, pp.182-193.