For reasons I don’t need to go into here I’ve recently spent quite a bit of time with a particular group of occupational drivers, who sadly seem to have completely slipped through the net when it comes to managing, or even being aware of, road risk issues.
Here’s the scenario. Small, private family run business, delivering all sorts of cars for various organisations in the motor industry on single vehicle flatbed trucks all over the UK from the Home Counties. Management all very hands on, so much so that two of them are out there every day at the wheel themselves. Various other drivers involved as and when on a casual, non contract basis. Fairly new vehicles, well maintained if a bit scruffy.
During several sessions in the passenger seat I’ve not only picked up a pretty accurate picture of a what a typical week might look like but also how the protagonists view the world. It’s a view far removed from those of us aware of, and pro-actively implementing, various forms of driver risk management.
A typical day starts early and ends late. These are non-tacho vehicles so driver’s hours limitations aren’t even on the radar apparently. One driver told me he’s done 20 hours one day recently without a break, other than to go to the toilet. This wasn’t a one-off occurence. Being barely capable of 70 mph flat out, boredom is a huge issue and of course with it concentration quickly evaporates.
Food and drink is mostly taken on the move, with the elbow coming in very handy to steer the rig. Mobile phones (non hands free kit equipped) are routinely answered at the wheel, and texts sent and received. Speeding tickets regarded as an occupational hazard. Time is money of course. Journey planning is cursory with no traffic information equipped sat nav used. If a traffic jam appears it’s on the phone to get the picture.
I noticed when I first stepped up into the cab that there was an absence of the legally-required no smoking decals, so it was no surprise when one day one of them lit up whilst doing 60mph down the motorway. Now I’ve been a lifelong non smoker and I hate cigarettes with a vengance but I rarely get areated about it. If people want to kill themselves that’s their perogative but I don’t see why I should inhale those toxic emmissions too, especially when it’s actually in an illegal situation like this! For a prime example of a toothless, un-enforceable legislative instrument look no further than the 2006 Health Act!
Although trade publications like Fleet News do a great job in flagging up the issues surrounding driver risk, there is sadly a whole section of the driving public out there that are seemingly blissfully unaware of the risk they are posing to other road users. I’m not saying I have an answer, except that all the rest of us just have to compensate for their inadequacies by being extra vigliant, highly observant and willing to take responsbility for avoiding an incident caused by them.’
Author: Steve Johnson, Principal, Autoproactive