Despite trucking’s apprehensions about dealing with rising fuel prices and maintaining aging fleets, improving driver safety trumped both as the top priority for light-duty  fleet managers over the next 12 to 18 months, according to a newly released PHH Arval survey.

 

 PHH Arval presented the survey - titled “Policy Survey Results from 100 Companies” - at a recent NAFA Fleet Management Assn. meeting. The survey delved into such areas as driver eligibility, vehicle technologies, fleet safety, fuel, maintenance, replacement and resale, and vehicle selection.

The survey - of more than 100 companies - is conducted periodically by PHH Arval. This latest one was conducted in the fall of 2011, and represents 25 industries.  According to PHH Arval, it aims to look at not only aspects of fleet policy, but strategies employed, organizations’ short-term outlook and fleet priorities.

Respondents’ fleets primarily operate sedans (35%), followed by pickups or cargo vans (29%), and SUVs or crossovers (18%).  Additionally, 75% of respondents indicated that their fleet is centrally managed.

 “The survey provides a snapshot of how organizations are managing their fleets,” said Angela Feerick, director, strategic consulting for PHH Arval.  “However, it’s important to note that these are benchmarks and not best practices. What’s good for one fleet may not necessarily be good for another.”

 Following are summaries of the top concerns expressed by fleet managers who responded to the survey:

·         Driver safety and accidents. Driver safety is the top priority. According to the survey, 86 % of respondent companies have a documented fleet safety/accident policy as part of their safety program-- and 8% have no safety program at all. Additionally, the survey found that 31% have driver safety kits, 25% have a fleet safety committee and 16% use in-vehicle technology to monitor driver behavior. Nearly a quarter (24%) of respondent companies have no safety training program. Others offer web-based safety training programs (56%) or by video/CD/DVD (33%).

 Additionally, Eliot Bensel, director of vehicle accident services and risk & safety for PHH Arval, recently said “a good driver safety training program can significantly reduce accidents.  Despite best-in-class efforts, every fleet has incidents and accidents that do happen. Ensuring there is a defined-accident management process will help get vehicles and drivers back on the road quickly and safely.”

·         Fuel and maintenance: According to the survey, over the past 12 to 18 months, fleet managers have used communications to drivers (58%) to increase their awareness of fuel consumption behavior and decrease costs. Additionally, they are monitoring fuel purchases more closely (55%), have added more fuel-efficient vehicles (45%) and tightened fuel card controls or policies (22%). Only 15 % of survey respondents indicated no steps taken to manage fuel costs. To control maintenance costs, 79% of fleet managers impose a driver’s authorization limit on maintenance purchases. In addition, companies continue to look for opportunities to improve driver and asset productivity.

“With today’s economy, we see that cutting costs is a primary objective,” noted Sarah Mallonga, project manager, strategic consulting for PHH Arval. “And it’s interesting to note that managers are using a proactive and low-cost method available – simply increasing awareness.”

“It’s important to take all factors into account when reviewing the survey,” observed Feerick. “While it represents a period of time, that insight into what others are doing provides alternative options for consideration. Combining this insight, what your current practice and polices are, and macroeconomic and industry factors, gives fleet managers a solid basis of information with which to define their long-term planning.”