PLATFORM:Hauliers must be fleet of foot to deal with Brexit consequences
WITH all this unseasonally mild weather, I’m still waiting for the ‘bleak mid-winter’ to arrive. Although treacherous driving conditions have thankfully not yet visited us this winter with any great tenacity, I always spare a thought at this time of year for the hauliers and truckers who keep our economy and society going.
Spare a thought too for the owners and managers of our local haulage companies, trying to run profitable operations in one of the most competitive industries in these islands.
Fleet insurance isn’t confined to the larger long-distance and cross-channel hauliers, many smaller companies also rely on fleets of smaller delivery vans and cars to do business – none of which is possible without proper insurance.
Our customers range from small family businesses to hauliers with fleet sizes up to 100 vehicles, and I’ve come to appreciate just what a difficult market it is and how tight margins can be.
Hauliers face an uncertain 2017, more so than most because of the potential impact of the UK's exit from the EU. Brexit may mean Brexit, according to the Prime Minister, but that’s not a particularly illuminating piece of advice for those trying to plan for the years ahead.
The truth is, Brexit’s impact won’t be evident until the nitty-gritty of the negotiations gets under way. We know what the broad strategic parameters will be, but the devil will lie in the detail.
As the only part of the UK with an EU land border, local hauliers will be particularly vulnerable to potential new costs, restrictions and bureaucracy. Free movement and the Common Travel Area have served the local economy well, but will this business-friendly regime be replicated post Brexit? Only time will tell.
In the meantime, while fleet managers can play out various scenarios of how a post-Brexit UK will look, there’s only so much value to be gained from trying to second guess the future.
A more productive use of time – at least for the short term – may be to focus on those areas of the business which are within your control such as reviewing existing practice and adopting strategies to help mitigate the impact of any claims.
Many of the options are common sense, but unless procedures are reviewed regularly and in a structured manner, every business can end up missing the basics, distracted by the frenetic pace at which modern commerce operates.
Tactics can include reducing the number of incidents which drivers are involved in through improved maintenance, more up-to-date and regular training, greater enforcement of rest breaks, or adopting new technology such as accident sensors and cameras which provide useful evidence to help defend claims.
Tracking vehicles is also becoming increasingly popular and has proven to be very cost effective, helping fleet managers monitor drivers’ speed as well as improving fuel efficiency.
Other things to consider include reassessing where vehicles are parked and to take time to review your driver profile. For instance, the more experienced your team is, the less likely they are to be involved in accidents and cause claims.
It may be a decade before Brexit’s implications are fully understood. Until then, continue to prepare for the future, but don’t forget to take action in the here and now.
:: Michael Blaney is managing director of Autoline Insurance Group (www.autoline.co.uk)