Supply chain problems? Look to your safety system for solutions

8 December 2021

The key to coping with supply chain issues for vehicles and parts may already be in your organization’s hands. The place to find it? Your safety management system – especially if it addresses road safety.

Your system emphasizes planning and preparation. Vehicle inspection and maintenance are undoubtedly covered. And you may have a journey management policy. These policies certainly protect workers who drive on the job. They’re also tools employers and fleet managers can use to help overcome the problems caused by chip shortages and other gaps in your supply chain. They can even help you manage staffing shortages.

To apply the tools, follow these tips:

1. Use journey management to optimize driver time

Making the best use of your staff and vehicles is essential when you can’t get easily more of either. Effective journey management can reduce unnecessary driving by optimizing trips and payloads. That reduces wear and tear on vehicles and can increase time (but not km) between scheduled vehicle servicing so you’re getting more uptime for your service dollars. And it can reduce the threat of mechanical breakdowns and delays due to weather.

Preventing driver injury and death through journey management is smart business. Fewer trips mean your drivers are less frequently exposed to driving hazards, which can help to save lives and keep people working. People injured in work-related crashes are off the job 30% longer than people injured at work for other reasons.

Journey management involves planning trips to make driving schedules less demanding and more sustainable. At your workplace it could include the following:

  • Using phones and virtual meetings where possible instead of having employees travel for work
  • Reducing trips back and forth between sites with carpooling, or having employees stay in a hotel closer to the job site. As a bonus, either of these options can save fuel, reduce driver fatigue, and probably increase productivity
  • Checking with your customers about reducing the number of deliveries in a week. Whether it’s supplies to job sites or goods to clients, the “just in time” delivery strategy may not be feasible right now. Customers may be willing to group deliveries on specific days or receive more at once than they normally would.

2. Pro-actively inspect and maintain vehicles

Inspection and maintenance are more important than ever, no matter how busy you are. It’s a minimal investment that pays big returns by ensuring vehicle safety and possibly allowing you to extend your fleet’s lifecycles too. You’d be in a position to wait out the inventory crunch rather than cycling out older vehicles.

Regular maintenance ensures any problems get taken care of before they require repairs that depend on parts being available.

Thorough regular inspections will help you identify existing and potential issues. For their own safety, always have your drivers inspect their vehicle and record the results. Make sure their schedules include the time they need to do those inspections during daylight.

Have your supervisors do spot checks. If the spot checks show that thorough daily inspections aren’t being done as expected, either reinforce your expectations or have the shop foreperson or a licensed mechanic do a complete inspection.

A final note: Avoid the temptation to put vehicles into service that aren’t suited for the job, especially in tough weather conditions. The costs and consequences of operating vehicles with poor tires or insufficient maintenance that result in a crash will likely be far greater than any possible short-term benefits.

3. Plan ahead for the next 6 to 10 months

Anticipating road safety issues gives you time to plan to manage them. The same is true for supply chain issues.

Know the life expectancy for parts and order any that may fail within the next 6 to 10 months. Within that same time frame, you’ll need to do maintenance so order supplies as soon as possible. Need new vehicles in the coming year? Better contact dealers today to get in line. You may even need to source and order tires now for next summer.

Keep in mind that well-trained, safe drivers can help you reduce the stress on your supply chain too. Reducing crashes reduces the need for repair parts. So assess driver qualifications and determine their competency behind the wheel at least once a year. Driver training may need to be scheduled to ensure they can stay on the road – and stay safe.

4. Be prepared and be flexible

Every safety program needs contingency plans. You need them for your vehicle and parts supply chain too. Some suggestions:

  • Build allowances into your budget to cover additional maintenance and repairs
  • Rent vehicles if the bottlenecks for your current fleet are hampering operations
  • Talk to your lessor about extending any leases. Have this conversation every 6 to 12 months until new vehicles become available
  • Be ready to act fast when new vehicles become available. Be willing to cross-shop various brands and models. Be flexible in terms of make, model, and features. Review vehicle safety technologies so you know what to look for