Recent terrorist attacks in the UK involving vehicles are a sobering reminder that those wishing to cause harm will look to use new ways to cause maximum disruption.
Fleet News recently reported that the use of hire vans in terror attacks may result in rental price increases.
Terrorists and lone wolves have turned to this new tactic in the past year; several of these vehicle attacks have been witnessed worldwide, resulting in more than 100 deaths.
With this particular method of attack becoming all too familiar, governments are now looking at ways to combat the emerging threat of road vehicles being used as weapons in public environments.
Their concern is the threat to critical infrastructure, airports, military bases, and government facilities, which may become the primary target of vehicle attacks in the future.
Any attack of this nature would certainly have a debilitating effect on national security, public safety, and economic stability.
In the UK, the Department for Transport is investigating the possibility of how new digital technologies or ‘geo-fencing’ can be used to stop unauthorised vehicles entering restricted zones.
Geo-fences are virtual boundaries that are dynamically generated, like a radius around a point location or around a set of boundaries, such as government buildings or public/ potential target areas, like shopping centres.
This technology could be utilised by commercial fleet operators who, by using telematics, tracking systems, and on-board computers, could set up a system whereby, if a vehicle enters a specific area, an alert can be raised or, in the case of combating terrorism, the car, van, or truck could be stopped.
In the face of this new terror risk, fleet operators and rental companies need to be increasingly vigilant and to take a proactive approach to ensure they are adhering to their duty of care obligations.
It is a legal requirement to make sure that anyone employed to drive a vehicle has the right licence and qualifications.
In addition, insurers generally require insureds to check the licences of all those who drive on company business, in order to identify serious endorsements or accumulations of penalty points.
Security should be paramount for all operators, and instructions should be provided to all drivers relating to the security precautions that need to be taken, which should include parking in secure or well-lit areas where possible and reporting any suspicious activity.
Fleet operators and the self-drive hire/rental industry will need to continually adapt to new threats.
Although internal checking and rechecking can be a time-consuming process, it is an essential part of reducing the risk of one of your fleet vehicles being involved in a terrorist attack.
A step-by-step guide to best practice:
- Check licences and utilise the DVLA’s driver record facility at the time of employment and at least every 12 months.
- Undertake extensive background checks when hiring new drivers.
- Verify previous work history and follow-up on references.
- Conduct criminal background checks on all new hires in the company.
- Require all new driver hires to participate in behind-the-wheel training with a certified trainer.
- Provide a security awareness programme for all employees so that they are able to recognise terrorism and other criminal activity.
- Provide trainers with instruction on identifying suspicious questions, enquiries, or activities by drivers, and report any concerns to the police.
- Fit vehicles with immobiliser devices and alarms.
- Ensure vehicle keys are never left in vehicles when they are unattended. Always secure the vehicle when unattended, even for short periods. Drivers should be instructed to always use the security devices fitted to their vehicle.
- Consider incorporating the most up-to-date safety measures when purchasing new vehicles, as many now have collision avoidance systems, which can also prevent or reduce the speed of impact with pedestrians, using radar systems which scan the road ahead for potential hazards.
By Anthony Monaghan, senior vice president in the Transportation and Engineering Practice at Marsh