Let’s talk about fleet management policy and how fleet managers, or whoever is responsible for the policy should be acting in the present circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic. Do you know how fleet managers have responded?
What I have seen across a whole range of enterprises — local government and small to medium sized businesses — is that fleet managers are now creating or updating business continuity plans to include the new way of doing things. It’s a document especially designed to enable execution of ongoing operations.
I gather the pandemic has revealed some major gaps in fleet policies, for example keeping a shared fleet vehicle clean and sanitised to ensure safety of workers, something that Australian health and safety law require. What do you think?
There’s always been a need to keep the vehicles clean, especially with pooled vehicles. But with Covid-19 it’s now no longer a matter of whether the vehicle is left in a good state or a poor state, they need to go a lot further and there’s a need for things like deep cleaning of the vehicle. It used to be that you picked up any wrappers, made sure the vehicle was tidy and had at least half a tank of petrol.
So what would a new policy need to entail — details about exactly how to sanitise a vehicle, washing hands before entering the vehicle or taking the keys?
Absolutely, it would be things like the new sanitation procedures: using a disinfectant to wipe down the steering wheel, the dash and other areas within the vehicle. The old procedures didn’t get into that kind of detail. Other things now being incorporated or considered are: keyless vehicles, whether a vehicle needs to be single use, or how to social distance when workers travel together.
How explicit does the policy need to be, particularly those clauses relating to sanitation amid this environment of a highly infectious virus?
So, obviously, the policy is different from the procedures document. The policy document is a strategic one, whereas the procedures document can be quite explicit. So, in this case, with Covid-19, because you are dealing with serious liability issues such as if a driver was to catch Covid, it’s going to have to deal with exactly what needs to be cleaned — dash, door handles etcetera, and what to clean them with — disinfectant, sprays, cleaning wipes and so on. I know for example the Greater City of Geelong has developed a fleet policy to guide the exploring of fabrication of screens to separate vehicle occupants in the event that they don’t have sufficient vehicles and employees will need to share vehicles.
Given the sudden descent upon us of the coronavirus pandemic, I imagine the process of introducing changes to the policy would have to be bypassed, for example maybe sending the draft out for review by all stakeholders. What would a short circuit process have to entail?
First of all, most organisations have some form of emergency powers to override procedures and that usually falls within a business continuity plan. Usually it will be someone like the CEO to make any changes, but they better have very good reasons, especially a policy change that involves purchasing something without going through the proper tendering procedures. I understand from speaking to a lot of fleet managers around the country that the crisis has actually forced change management, and that has enabled a lot of organisations to improve their processes and efficiencies. I’m talking about things like telematics and paperless procedures such as pre-start checks. These are things that bigger organisations already had in place, and now a lot of the smaller organisations are being forced to make that type of change.