by Leyton Jordan, depot manager Accessible Division UK, Enterprise Flex-e-Rent
In sectors such as private patient transport, special needs schools and councils, transport managers already have to manage minibuses and other vehicles suitable for conveying the disabled as part of their fleet responsibilities.
The requirement for providing accessible transport is growing fast given there are around 3.5 million disabled people in the UK workforce, up from 2.9 million in 2013.
As this trend continues, many fleet managers will have to get to grips with accessible requirements sooner rather than later. In fact, corporate vehicles will need to be as open to employee diversity as company buildings.
That means understanding the compliance regime.
Accessible vehicles have specialist equipment such as passenger lifts for wheelchairs which require extensive testing and maintenance to fall within legal (and manufacturer) guidelines.
And these aren’t the only add-ons needed: accessible vehicles are often equipped with cyclist and pedestrian detection equipment or CCTV security systems so fleets can monitor both employee and passenger safety.
Organisations will also need similarly equipped replacement vehicles when their own are being repaired or serviced.
Duty of care is, unsurprisingly, top of the agenda when it comes to transporting disabled people.
In addition, there can be issues with driving licences. Following a change to the law, from 1997, new drivers do not automatically receive D1 entitlement to drive a minibus with up to 16 passenger seats. So if a fleet has younger drivers who passed their test after 1997, it’s entirely possible they’re not legally able to take out larger accessible vehicles.
It’s not uncommon for customers to request smaller models because older drivers have retired or left the organisation.
Transport is going to be an increasingly important factor as more disabled people become involved in an ever more diverse UK workforce – as industry bodies such as Motability have already shown.
Fleet managers should start understanding accessibility if they want to stay ahead of the curve.