Only buy cars awarded ‘five stars’ in consumer crash tests. That is the core recommendation of the Global New Car Assessment Programme’s (Global NCAP) new guidelines for organisations operating vehicle fleets. Launched at Global NCAP’s 2014 Forum in Melbourne, Australia, the new guidelines provide new ‘best practice’ for global companies seeking to meet corporate social responsibility goals and their duty of care to employees.
Our new guidelines are consistent with the United Nation’s Global Plan for Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 which recommends that fleet managers “purchase, operate and maintain vehicles that offer advanced safety technologies and high levels of occupant protection”.
The challenge is how to do this when all too often cars are sold in emerging markets that may look similar to five-star European models, but which do not offer the same levels of safety. Of the record level of 65 million new passenger cars built last year, as many as a third would fail to pass the UN’s front and side crash tests, and do not have air bags, anti-lock brake systems (ABS) or electronic stability control (ESC).
To overcome this lack of regulation or harmonisation with global standards, our new guidelines advise fleet purchasers to only select vehicles that have been awarded by New Car Assessment Programmes (NCAPs) with a ‘five star’ safety rating. There are now nine NCAPs or similar consumer test programmes around the world. However, not all markets are covered by NCAPs and so we also recommend that, before purchase, fleet managers ask the manufacturers to confirm that the selected model will meet the most important minimum United Nations vehicle safety standards. The combination of demanding ‘five stars’ and a minimum safety guarantee will ensure that companies can be confident that they are meeting best practice in fleet safety.
It also makes good business sense. Equipping a vehicle with ABS and ESC helps avoid crashes from happening at all, so investment in these crash avoidance technologies reduces all the costs of crashes, including injury, property damage and loss of business use of the vehicle. That is why Global NCAP now also highly recommends Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), which is a new safety system that is just beginning to be included in the most advanced consumer rating programmes.
Making the ‘five star’ commitment is rapidly becoming a bench mark for responsible fleet management. Organisations that have already done so include BHP Billiton, the world’s largest resource extraction company, and the Governments of Australia and Sweden. The safety leadership shown by BHP Billiton was recognised in Melbourne by HRH Prince Michael of Kent, who presented the company with Global NCAP’s 2014 Innovation Award. This ‘five star’ action has given a strong signal to the marketplace by insisting on vehicles with good levels of safety, and manufacturers have responded by changing the safety specification to ensure that they can secure valuable orders.
As part of the UN Decade, more and more organisations will be adopting Global NCAP’s recommendations for fleet safety. Our guidelines also help companies to implement the new road traffic safety standard ISO 39001. This important ISO initiative identifies vehicle safety as a significant factor for fleet operators seeking to reduce death and injury in road crashes.
And that task is becoming harder each year as the world’s vehicle fleet is set to double from one to two billion in little more than ten years. Already 1.3 million people are killed and up to 50 million injured annually in road crashes worldwide. By 2030, the World Health Organization forecasts that road crashes will become the fifth leading cause of death, rising to 2.4 million fatalities per year. To prevent this avoidable carnage on our roads, the UN Decade of Action supports policies to cut by 50% the level of fatalities forecast in 2020. This would save five million lives, 50 million injuries and avoid US$3trn in social costs.
By adopting Global NCAP’s guidelines, fleet managers can play their part in achieving the UN Decade’s ambitious but realistic life-saving goal. Their global purchasing power is enormous. By rolling out ‘five star’ fleet policies, they will be ensuring that their purchase decisions meet best practice in safety management. And by providing ‘five star’ safety, vehicle manufacturers will gain the most lucrative deals in the automotive business. This is how the power of the marketplace can be harnessed to make cars safer across the world.