COVID 19 Advice for fleet operators

At Cool Running Rental we want to make getting your business back on track as easy as possible.

Now that businesses are starting to reopen there are lots of questions being fielded regarding the new guidelines laid out to combat COVID 19, and as they vary between industries there is lots of confusion surrounding what is safe, and what isn’t.

Today we’re going to take you through the guidlines laid out by the Government, and hopefully clear up some of the questions surrounding running your fleet safely.

While we’re deciphering the official advice in regards to fleet operators, many of these points will be relevant to people from a huge variety of other trades, and so may well be worth the read!

a fleet of different vans
a mousetrap with cheese showing risk vs reward

Part 1: Considering risk

As with every other danger posed in the workplace, COVID 19 has brought with it a host of new risks that employers and employees alike must make themselves aware of in order to be safe. One of the first steps you should be taking to mitigate the risk of COVID 19 is putting together an effective risk assessment, that properly indentifies the areas where the virus might be able to enter and spread through your workplace.

In order to create an effective risk assessment it is important for it to be thourough, and inclusive of both management and staff. This means taking the ideas and opinions from every team member, and assessing them to see the risk they pose. Taking a unilateral approach to creating your COVID 19 risk assessment will ensure that every possible risk that can be seen from any angle within the workplace will be seen and duly mitigated.

To help manage these risks the Government has laid out a few simple steps that any business can put into place, and effectively reduce the threat of COVID entering the workplace, and they are:

1. Ensure all workers and visitors who feel unwell stay at home and do not come into the workplace or interact with staff outside of the premises.

2. Increase the cleaning of all surfaces within the workplace and make handwashing easier and more frequent.

3. Ensure that employees can work safely, either by working from home, or making allowances for the 2m social distancing measures within the workplace. Critical or “shielding” people may return to work, but should work from home where possible.

4. All activities within the workplace should be considered with the 2m social distancing in mind, and adapted if needs be to make room for the safety measures.

5. For activities where social distancing measures cannot be adhered to, the activity should be assessed as to whether it is vital to the running of the business or not and ended accordingly.

6. Scientific research has shown that the raising of voices is more of a risk factor than previously thought. This is due to the aerosol spray created by shouting transmitting COVID 19 from one person to another. For this reason measures should be made that allow staff to talk without having to raise their voices, or if unavoidable not talking at all in loud environments.

7. Critically, should your staff have to work face to face for extended periods of time, the question should be raised as to whether this activity needs to continue. No one is obliged to work in an unsafe environment and it is important that we exercise this right now more than ever.

management and staff working on a risk assessment together

With the afformentioned measures in place all that remains is to give confidence to your workforce. As point number 7 states: no one is obliged to work in an unsafe environment, but as it is in everyone’s interest to return to work you should give your staff the encouragement they need to do so.

To achieve this you should share the details and outcomes of your risk assessment with them, and detail the measures you have put in place for their safety. For smaller businesses this can be done conversationally, or even on a 1 to 1 basis, but far larger businesses you should publish your report on your website, and also have a hard copy available to view in the workplace.

Making the evidence of your commitment to staff safety accessible will go a long way into helping your staff feel safe in returning to work and getting the business back on track.

Part 2: Which staff members should be returning to work?

One of the biggest headaches facing management up and down the country is deciding who should come back to work when, and in what order? For many businesses this can be easily remedied by working from home, but for fleet owners this is not a realistic option.

As vehicles need drivers to operate, then fleet owners need staff to drive them. This means that fleet operators will have to find the balance between getting their vehicles moving and keeping their staff safe.

This task is easier for rental fleet operators as their customers are the drivers of their vehicles and so present little challenge for social distancing.

driver in their cab

Difficulties arise when drivers can easily come into contact with one another on a regular basis, e.g couriers getting assignments from depots at the same time. In these scenarios more care must be given to who is coming into work and when. Firstly the number of people allowed in the workplace at any one time must be calculated to accommodate the 2m social distancing rules. This will give you a baseline figure of how many people can return to work if they were all to sit in one room at the same time.

From here you can then decide who are the most important people to return to work, balanced with who is at the most risk. This core group of individuals should be the people who can keep your business going in the worst case scenario of having everyone in at one time. 

Following this you can begin to experiment with bringing more people into the workplace on a staggered basis, and this is where fleet owners are uniquely at an advantage. Due to the nature of vehicles coming and going, you can stagger the working hours of your drivers to ensure that they are not in any central location at the same time, and so keeping the number of staff in the workplace below the maximum allowed at any one time.

What you must always bear in mind however is not everyone can be expected to return at the same time, and you must make allowances for those who are shielding, or may need to self isolate. This can be as simple as continuing their stay away from work, or adapting their role to make working from home more acessible to them.

For fleet owners, this might mean givng temporary administration roles to those who must stay at home, which should allow them to work in safety and also takes some pressure off those already in the workplace.

Considerations must also be made for equality in the workplace. It is illegal to discriminate based on age, sex or ethnicity, but unfortunately COVID doesn’t adhere to this. Scientific research has shown that the virus affects some members of the BAME community worse than other people, and age is a universal factor in increasing risk. For this reason should someone in these categories choose to stay away from work you must make allowances for this.

Part 3: Social distancing effectively

Something we have already mentioned on several occasions is maintaining the mandated 2m social distancing rules laid out by the government, but many people struggle with implementing this effectively. Let’s break it down into simple terms and with fleet owners in mind.

As we have already mentioned, it is unreasonable to expect all of your staff to fit in the workplace at once. With some lucky exceptions, maintaining the 2m social distancing is a difficult task. Luckily for fleet operators there are a number of measures you can put into place in order to remedy this. One of the biggest choke points will be when your drivers come and go from work, and as we have already discussed above the best practice for this is to stagger who comes and goes and at what time. This can be done down to small intervals, 5 minutes inbetween for example, and will be invaluable in keeping staff contact down to a minimum.

Some fleet operators can also make arrangements to ensure drivers and loaders aren’t in contact any more than nessecary. This might mean pre-picking goods ahead of time, and having loaders handle the goods into the vehicle without the driver leaving the cab. Efforts should also be made to find alternatives to 2-person deliveries, as these often require close face to face contact. If they are toally unavoidable, then the 2 people making the delivery should make all their 2 person deliveries together, to limit any potential spread.

For vehicle operators who are required to work in pairs, social distancing is especially difficult. In these scenarios every effort should be made to mitigate the potential risks. You can do this in several ways:

  • Ensure both inhabitants of the vehicle are wearing masks
  • Ensure regular surface cleaning takes place within the vehicle
  • Increase ventilation by opening the windows whenever possible
  • Use a fixed pairing system, to prevent any wide spread of the virus

When making the deliveries themselves you should be focussing your efforts on keeping staff safe from COVID. This can be achieved very simply, by limiting the time in which your staff are exposed to the customer. You should also aim to use electronic paperwork wherever possible, as this severely cuts down the risk of COVID passing from person to person.

delivery being made by one person do avoid spread

Part 4: Managing customers

For most fleet owners the customers are safely at a distance and can be managed easily, but for rental fleets like Rentruck and Cool Running Rental the customer comes right into the heart of your business.

We have found several ways around this problem however. Firstly, we limit the number of people coming into our workspace by offering pickup and drop off services on all of our leases nationwide. This lowers the risk not only to ourselves, but also to our other customers.

Rental fleet operators should also be doing their best to move to a contactless, paperless model of leasing, as this lowers any potential contact points even further.

Finally where possible keep a record of all visitors/leasers, in case there is a breakout of the virus. In this event you should be able to provide the Government with helpful information for the track and trace program.

Part 5: Keeping the workplace clean

This is one of, if not THE most important part of the battle against COVID 19. As we begin to return to work we can make every effort to distance ourselves from each other, but we cannot see any potential dangers we leave behind.

For this reason, shared surfaces can become hotbeds for the virus to live upon and transfer itself from onto someone else. Fleet operators face a unique challenge here in that many vehicles might be driven by multiple people, each of which could leave traces of the virus on hard surfaces within.

cleaning the inside of a car

Keep everyone safe by ensuring that regular cleaning takes place within the vehicles. This action should be carried out whenever there is a driver changeover at the very least. One of the best ways that we have found to combat this is to perform regular “quick” cleans throughout the day, followed by a deep clean whenever there is a change of driver.

The quick cleans should consist of wiping down likely contact areas like door handles, steering wheels and gearsticks, where the virus might be lingering from someone who has used the vehicle without your knowledge. This type of clean finds the balance between safety and convenience.

When drivers change over, the entire van should be thouroughly scrubbed down with hot water and soap, on all the hard surfaces like the dash, steering wheel, gearstick, controls, windows, doors and handles. In doing this your are minimising any chance of COVID 19 being spread through your workforce.

This level of cleanliness should also be reflected in the drivers themselves, through regular handwashing and sanitising. As a fleet operator, it is your responsibility to make sure that these facilities are available to your staff throughout their working day, and that they are taking every precation not to pass any potential viruses on.

Part 6: Plan for the worst, and hope for the best

With your staff back in work, following COVID safety guidelines and seemingly back up to full speed it might be tempting to bring the scale of your business back up to where it was before the Coronavirus pandemic. We strongly advise against doing this, for one very simple reason.

As the climbing rates among young people have shown, the virus is still very much around and could cause great damage to businesses that have promised services, and are then forced to go back on said promise when half their workforce has to self isolate.

For this reason, it is better to be cautious and plan for every contingency where your fleet is concerened. Can you run on half staff? Are there other drivers who can carry the extra weight? 

Putting the time into identifying which roles are crucial, and who can do them will help you to build a plan should the worst come to pass and COVID make its way into your workspace.

The simplest contingency you can make is to run your staff in at least two teams, each of which are capable of running the business independently and having no contact with members from the other team. This “bubble” tactic is already popular with many other industries, and so there is no reason not to also apply it to vehicle fleet operators.

Should there be a breakout in the workplace then the infected parties should be sent home immediately, along with anyone they have come into contact with. Catching the virus early will make all the difference when controlling its spread.

pins showing how to manage different teams

If you feel that you could benefit from hiring a refrigerated vehicle get in touch with us today! Our helpful team will be able to answer any questions you may have, to help find the right vehicle for you. 

If you need our help, then Contact Us now!

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