I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying “If you aren’t measuring it, you aren’t managing it” – if we aren’t measuring it, how do we know whether we need to improve it or, more importantly, how effective any improvements have been – but what are we supposed to be measuring?
While there are many things that can be measured and improved, one of the key metrics is Accident Frequency Rate or AFR. In the world of fleet safety and risk management we do try to steer away from the word ‘Accident’ – although commonly used, the word accident implies that whatever happened couldn’t have been avoided, and good fleet operators will more commonly measure ‘Incident’ rates.
Accident may be fine when referring to no-fault collisions – your driver may well not have been able to foresee or do anything about another road user behaving badly however, any incident where you accept blame is, by definition, not an accident. Whether it was caused by a vehicle failure, reckless driving, or even a simple lapse in driver concentration, the incident may well have been foreseeable and possibly avoided by better vehicle maintenance or more attentive driving – both of which are only improved through better management.
However even measuring incident rates can be confusing as there are different ways of measuring this. Some employers measure collisions per driver, some measure collisions per vehicle and some measure collisions per million miles. These rates measure frequency but some also measure severity by looking at the cost of collisions per driver or million miles. Many of the larger employers with good management strategies, including our own Driving for Better Business champions, will measure all of those metrics and monitor them month by month, carefully tracking trends and acting quickly when they see incident rates going in the wrong direction.
Once you’ve started measuring incident rates, the picture probably doesn’t become any clearer. You’ve arrived at a figure of 1.27 or 5.3 but what does that mean? Is it good or bad? What are you supposed to do now? What happens next depends largely on what size of company you are.
Having calculated your incident rate, there are three things that you could look at next.
The first is to continue monitoring month on month, year on year, to detect any trends and to understand the reasons behind those trends. Failure to understand why trends are moving in a particular way could mean expensive and misdirected interventions with no noticeable benefit.
When looking month by month you might see seasonal variations depending on your business. These may be due to weather making driving more hazardous or it could be that your drivers are covering more miles during busy periods. This is why it can be beneficial to look at collisions per million miles rather than focusing on how many incidents a particular driver has had. A driver with two collisions in 100,000 miles isn’t twice as high risk a driver who has only had one collision but has only covered 10,000 miles.
Some of our Driving for Better Business Ambassadors are big advocates of benchmarking. Colin Knight, Head of Fleet Safety Management and Compliance at the Clancy Group, monitors incident rates on a monthly basis: