12 Oct 22

How to maintain a safe, secure fleet in Latin America

Making sure your fleet operations are safe and secure not only protects the well-being of your drivers but saves you money in the long run considering the amount of expenses you can cut by reducing accidents and cutting down on vehicle and cargo theft. 

Today, a vast majority of deaths from traffic accidents take place in low to middle-income countries of which South America represents a significant part of this statistic. In the country with the largest national fleet, Brazil, more than 300,000 injuries from accidents occur every year with some 10% of that resulting in deaths. 

Driver Management 

In many cases, drivers are at fault so make sure you implement a steadfast driver training program which includes continuous behavior monitoring to reduce speeding, running tight corners, harsh braking, using the phone behind the wheel, and more.

Follow-up actions such as positive reinforcement through gamification is usually better than penalizing bad drivers which could be demotivating. Among the companies providing driver safety courses in the region are Brazil-based CEPA Mobility, PARAR, and Younder, as well as US-based multinational eDriving.

To gain driver support, let them know that these safety measures are for their own good and make sure you consider the appropriate data protection measures. 

Keep in mind that bad road conditions are also the culprit in many cases. Among the largest fleet markets with the worst road conditions in Latin America are Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru.

With that said, fleet managers need to know the ins and outs of operating their fleets in the region. Besides focusing on education and training, know road conditions and keep route optimization top of mind, keep driver fatigue to a minimum, and make use of technology. 

Besides considering the conditions of roads when routing drivers, fleet managers should also refrain from creating schedules which promote driver fatigue.

Car Models

Another way to preserve safety in your fleet operations is making sure you choose car models which are apt to keeping your drivers safe. 

Besides protecting your drivers, remember that safety is also a very important aspect of total cost of ownership (TCO). Without a doubt, safety should be considered in the vehicle procurement process as it is completely related to factors such as the cost of insurance and repairs.

Today, Latin American countries are incorporating a lot of new safety technologies which are seen in more mature markets such as the United States and Europe. Features such as anti-collision, lane assist, and anti-theft systems will drastically change the behavior of your fleet drivers, according to Rodolfo Possuelo (pictured left) who is commercial director for Nissan Brazil.

One such change is the ESP (electronic stability program) which has been mandated in Argentina and Chile with countries such as Brazil and Colombia seen coming soon.

“While some of these updates are being mandated by governments, others simply entail advancements by automakers who are just focused on maturing the market,” said Mr. Possuelo.

“I have a new Nissan Frontier and the advance technology it has is quite impressive when compared to previous versions. Fleet owners need to know the importance of these features and how they will change driving behavior,” the executive added.

Last but not least, one thing fleet managers can do in the region to help with vehicle selection is to keep up with the latest crash tests carried out by Latin NCAP, the Latin America and Caribbean regional car safety assessment program.

A few words on theft

Considering car theft in the largest fleet markets, Brazil sees around one incident per 1,000 inhabitants every year and Mexico sees 0.7 incidents per 1,000. 

Keep in mind that many of these, nearly half in some cities, involve car jackings by gunpoint so prepare your drivers on how to deal with this situation. Also be aware that crimes are frequently committed by pairs riding on motorcycles.

High priced vehicles are targeted in some cases but remember that some of the more commonly stolen models are lower priced best-selling models which can be resold for parts after being stolen. 

To resolve matters, get full-coverage vehicle and cargo insurance. Depending on the location, type of vehicle, and driver profile, this should cost some 5% of vehicle value. Another option would be to focus more on telematics and vehicle tracking to protect your cars. 

Among the technology suppliers in the region are Geotab, Lytx, Webfleet Solutions, Mix Telematics, Ituran, Golfleet, Lojack, Teletrac Navman, and more.

Although most drivers will not have to face a carjacking, it does happen from time to time so be prepared with driver training, insurance, and vehicle tracking.  

As a last note, having one or more armored cars in your fleet may be a consideration for high profile drivers located in larger metropolises such as São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City, and Bogota.

Brazil leads in armored vehicle production with some 10,000 produced per year, while Mexico produces nearly half that. Remember, however, that armored cars are quite heavy. Although they increase safety, fuel efficiency drops considerably.

For more insight on fleet management in Latin America, meet with Fleet LatAm and other participants during the next Business Networking Group meeting , taking place 13 December online.

Top Photo (copyright: Shutterstock)​​​

Authored by: Daniel Bland