Preparation is everything for a fleet manager sending drivers out into remote locations. We've previously provided a checklist of how to keep drivers safe in these potentially hazardous environments but, even with the best planning, events can move beyond your control. So what do you do if something has gone wrong?
Anybody who has been through a road incident in a remote location, either as a fleet manager or a driver, will understand the importance of putting together a detailed journey plan before the vehicle sets off. Knowing what route will be taken, and estimating the time of arrival at each checkpoint as well as the final destination, provides crucial information for emergency services teams should they be needed.
Monitoring vehicles with or without tracking devices
If a vehicle has been fitted with tracking technology, the journey manager should monitor its progress every 15 to 60 minutes once it has moved into a remote location. If the vehicle is travelling outside of mobile coverage the vehicle should be fitted with satellite tracking. If a vehicle remains stationary for more than a few minutes outside of a scheduled stop make a phone call. If a driver is travelling alone they should be issued with a personal safety device.
If something doesn't feel right the journey manager should first try to contact the driver's mobile phone. If that fails, try to establish where the vehicle is via tracking technology. If the vehicle hits something there will be an alert. If the vehicle breaks down the driver can use the in-vehicle messaging function.
If the vehicle hasn't been fitted with a tracking device, try to establish contact with the driver's mobile phone once they miss a scheduled call-in time. If that fails identify the nearest emergency service or roadhouse to that location. Raise the alarm with emergency services and try to minimise the search area. With an appropriate journey management plan you can always establish where the vehicle was at last point of contact and when that was. Using time over distance will then enable emergency services to establish a search area and give themselves the best chance of finding the driver quickly.
When something has definitely gone wrong
Drivers can travel great distances between Sydney and Melbourne or Brisbane but generally have mobile coverage for the entire trip. Should something happen, it's also likely that it won't take long before assistance arrives. By contrast, if a driver leaves Adelaide and travels along the Eyre Highway, they won't be visible to highway traffic once they travel more than a kilometre off the main road. This is the sort of environment where you can encounter real problems. What should the driver do if they have more than one tyre blowout at the same time or hit a kangaroo? These might sound unlikely scenarios but they are plausible.
When you know something has gone wrong a speedy escalation to emergency services is critical. Provide as much information as possible including what type of vehicle it is, how many personnel are in it and any type of data that can be provided about the nature of the incident. Harsh deceleration would suggest an impact so ambulance and fire brigade or Royal Flying Doctor Service would need to be notified. The time taken to provide medical assistance is critical because many of these incidents only become fatal when it takes too long to get a medical response team to arrive.
Under the Workplace Health and Safety Act employers and fleet managers have a duty of care where they expect people to travel to remote locations. You need to ensure the safety of these personnel should an incident occur. What systems are in place to make sure you know where people are and how do you communicate with them to find out what has happened? The more remote the location, the greater the risk and the more important it is that these protocols are in place.