With our 10,000 engineers driving more than 342 million kilometres a year visiting customers’ homes, driver safety is a key priority at Centrica. With so many miles driven, road accidents form one of the main safety risks.
We confront this challenge by requiring driver safety training for high-risk drivers, such as high mileage, young or new drivers, as well as those employees changing vehicle types. We also work to raise awareness to all our people of safe driving practices through communications campaigns.
Our stringent road safety policy seeks to place safety at the forefront of our people’s minds. In particular, it has been effective in lowering the risk of distracted driving which forms one of the main causes of accidents, by making it against our company policy to use mobile phones when driving.
During 2013, more than 4,800 employees took part in driver safety training across British Gas and Direct Energy. Our rigorous approach to driver safety training has proved highly effective with low severity road incidents declining to 4.91 per million km driven – a decrease of 2% since 2012 or 48% since 2010. The total number of high severity incidents fell from six to one compared with 2012.
At British Gas, drivers can complete driver development training such as a BTEC level 3 advanced award and gain learnings on specific issues through online courses such as hazard perception. All new van drivers receive thorough road safety fleet induction training that involves both a theory and practical assessment. Training is heavily supported by ongoing awareness campaigns, which, for example, promote how to drive safely in difficult winter conditions.
Also, in recognition of the growing number of electric vehicles (EV’s) used in our fleets and company car programme, we are increasing the provision of safety training specific to EV’s. EV’s have different safety risks compared with driving a petrol or diesel car, so require different training. British Gas is trialling electric vans for engineers and currently has 26 in operation with plans to extend this to 1,300 by 2016 depending on the availability of suitable models.
In Direct Energy, fleet engineers receive driver safety training prior to commencing work and annually thereafter. The training is delivered primarily through the Plan, Analyze, Communicate and Execute (PACE) programme. This involves the engineers conducting an effective safety check prior to driving, followed by a practical road assessment that includes speed of travel, stopping distances as well the requirement to verbally describe the hazards encountered together with action to ensure optimal hazard avoidance. The engineer’s driving is then analysed and improvement areas shared. Learnings on identified improvements are supported by classroom sessions that span a wide variety of topics like collision causation, vehicle dynamics and driving culture which is subsequently applied to an additional practical road session to embed newly learnt behaviours. Should any driver be found at fault of an accident, they are also required to undertake remedial driver training within 30 days of the event.
Ongoing monitoring and evaluation of engineer driving is crucial in lowering emerging road risks. For example, British Gas’ Driver Risk Management system (DRMS) monitors performance and highlights higher risk drivers we can support with targeted driver development training. In 2013, British Gas also conducted a trial whereby some of its fleet drivers were monitored with the purpose of improving road behaviours through focusing on reducing harsh acceleration, braking, cornering and speeding. Likewise, Direct Energy’s vehicle telematics systems have proved highly effective in coaching their engineers to embed better driving behaviours as well as improve fuel consumption and therefore lower emissions from erratic driving and idling.
In 2014, we will remain committed to ensuring the safety of our people and the wider public by working hard to ensure the prevention of road incidents through effective training and awareness programmes.
1 Assured by Deloitte LLP for 2013 reporting.