Driving a branded vehicle can be a fantastic marketing opportunity for businesses to raise awareness of their services as they hit the roads. But it can also lead to a reputational nightmare if someone witnesses bad, careless or even dangerous driving.
That's because a member of the public is likely to recognise and remember a business if they've personally seen an example of impaired driving.
At best, they'll walk away with a negative impression.
At worst, they know immediately who to contact to report bad driving.
If you're lucky, they'll only make a complaint to the business itself. But if someone has seen an example of bad driving, they could easily report your identifying vehicle directly to the police.
As transport consultants, we spend much of our time working with our clients to help increase efficiencies. But we also focus heavily on driver training and ensuring your reputation remains intact.
We're about to head into the busy summer season, so your drivers will likely be clocking up the hours on UK roads. The UK has an endless love of summer excursions, weekend coach tours and day trips. The increasing uncertainty of the rail network means more demand for you to have a large fleet on the road.
This is potentially great publicity for your business as long as your drivers are paying due care and attention.
It's not an exaggeration to say that sign-written fleet is a literal driving advertisement.
Your vehicles will likely have a phone number or URL in big letters. With this in mind, we've compiled a list of practical tips to help you manage your reputational risk this summer.
Check your driver training
You already know the importance of sending your drivers on regular training, but this is often focused on ensuring your CPC hours are up to date. We recommend adding a new module to your ongoing training, specifically on driving a branded vehicle.
When did you last speak to your drivers about them being an advocate for your company? Are they aware every single interaction they have with passengers or other road users reiterates an overall impression?
Your training doesn't need to be complicated. Factoring in an open discussion about the risks involved in driving branded vehicles could be enough to encourage your drivers to think differently.
Remind your drivers of the need for "perfect" driving
Sign-written vehicles are a great way to share phone numbers or website addresses. In an ideal scenario, these branded vehicles raise awareness amongst potential customers. But in less-than-ideal scenarios, they provide immediate contact details for members of the public to complain if they've witnessed poor driving decisions.
If you are driving a branded vehicle – of whatever shape and size, you must try to adhere to perfect driving conditions.
This means you must be considerate in your parking, no queue jumping or cutting people up as you drive along the UK's Road network. You need to imagine you are being watched and assessed the whole time because we promise the one time you let your standards slip will be when someone uses your branded vehicle contact details to submit a complaint.
Being aware of what to do if the worst happens
If you are involved in a road collision, be aware that driving a branded vehicle could put you at risk of being identified, even if the accident was not your fault.
As part of our consultancy service, we provide risk assessments and disaster management plans to cover all worst-case scenarios. If you're sending out a fleet of branded buses or coaches, we'll create a specific plan of action which protects the business from any reputational damage.
This may be about outlining who needs to be contacted and putting wider disaster management plans into place. It's also about ensuring drivers know what to do and when.
Our job is to provide you with all the risk assessments you need to protect your reputation.
First impressions are everything
With a branded vehicle, you have one opportunity to make a positive first impression. If your vehicle is dirty or has visible faults or signs of ageing, it can make you look as if you don't care about those first impressions.
We know the value of looking professional and presentable, which is essential with branded vehicles. Therefore, as part of the planning strategy, why not equip drivers with cleaning materials to make fast improvements if they arrive at the destination slightly worse-for-wear.
Be proactive, regularly examine the interiors and exteriors to check for visible defects. If you can identify any problems, arrange for faults to be fixed during downtime, ensuring the fleet can return as quickly as possible.
Talk to drivers about how they feel about being a brand ambassador
Whether they realise it or not, your drivers will naturally be brand ambassadors for the branded bus, coach, or truck. When was the last time you factored in an open and honest discussion with your drivers about that brand? Do they feel happy to represent (however subtly) the company, or do they have negative impressions themselves?
You might be surprised that by talking directly to your team, you can all learn more about what it means to represent the brand visually.
CJC Transport Consultancy can help you mitigate any reputational risk
While you may think you would need a PR firm to manage your reputation rather than transport consultants, the reality is reputation is built based on proactive rather than reactive measures.
Our role as transport consultant is to provide you with the proactive support needed to prevent problems from occurring in the first place. This may be about ensuring drivers are current on their CPC hours, or it could be about improving your compliance measures if you are at risk of an audit.
We know you're busy with day-to-day tasks, so our external resource can provide the time and attention to detail for those proactive tasks you don't have time to do.
We work with businesses across the East of England, providing ongoing or ad-hoc transport consultancy services.
Please get in touch to find out how we can support your transport business.