Fleet News

Fleet industry manifesto: road safety and duty of care

It’s rare for companies to actively seek additional regulation, but that’s exactly what fleets and leasing companies are calling for when it comes to road-related safety.

The reporting of at-work road crashes has long been a bone of contention as they are the only type of work-related incident excluded from RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations).

Yet, say fleets, this information would create a new seam of data that would give policymakers, insurers and fleets a better understanding of the risks and costs associated with work-related driving and help them to mitigate against them.

It was one of a number of clearly defined actions demanded by the latest Fleet Industry Manifesto meeting, held jointly by Fleet News, the BVRLA and ACFO, and hosted by road safety charity Brake at Irwin Mitchell Solicitors in Leeds.

According to one fleet delegate, “RIDDOR seems like a no-brainer”, although he acknowledged that it “may be a little hard to achieve”.

Saul Jeavons, from the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS), said police needed to be trained so they understood exactly what the data would be used for.

“Back 15 years or so ago, when I was in local government, our highway engineers used to go and train the police probationers to show them that depending on where they put the location of the accident depended on where they put the anti-skid surfacing down,” he said.

“Having it on one part of the roundabout or 20 metres back on the same roundabout could affect tens of thousands of pounds-worth of spend.”

Jeavons said it was crucial to make police aware of the implications but he also called for aggregation of different data sets – from the police, hospitals and insurers – to provide a complete picture.

Concern was raised about the decline in the number of dedicated fleet managers, resulting in more fleets overseen by people who do not understand the extent of their responsibility related to road safety.

“If we can address that through RIDDOR so they think, ‘I’ve got to get on top of this’, then suddenly you’ve got a whole army of people who are actually interested in looking at road safety,” said one leasing company boss.

Another added: “There are one or two parts of RIDDOR that already cover certain vehicle-related activity, such as loading or unloading, so it’s not something that’s going to be completely new to lots of companies, particularly those that operate commercial vehicles.

“At the moment, if your vehicle runs over a pedestrian who’s just walking down the pavement as it is reversing into your yard, then it’s not RIDDOR-able. If it runs over the banksman when he’s just inside the yard then it is RIDDOR-able – it’s not a sensible situation.”

The biggest benefit to fleets was underlined by one fleet manager who said: “It would simplify it because if everybody knows they have to log everything regardless then it just makes life easy.”

Delegates at the Fleet Industry Manifesto meeting also called for the next Government to reintroduce road safety targets – something Labour has already pledged to do if it comes to power. Targets were ditched in 2010 despite proving to be a success in helping to cut the number of people killed and serious injured (KSI) on UK roads.

In addition, the fleet sector would like the Government to invest in an expanded Think! driving advertisement campaign covering work-related road safety.

In many ways, both the KSI targets and the marketing campaign were victims of their own success. As the number of serious driving crashes fell, Government attention – and therefore resources – moved elsewhere, as the coalition sought to shore up the deficit.

According to PACTS, the Department for Transport believes it has gained 80% of the benefit for 20% of the investment and has now put the onus on vehicle manufacturers to continue the improvements.

However, while manufacturers have risen to the challenge by developing a raft of vehicle safety technology, the systems are usually available as a cost option rather than as standard-fit equipment.

The Government could help in this area by introducing incentives for fleets and company car drivers who opt to include safety equipment on their cars and vans.
As one fleet representative said: “If someone spends an extra £500 on metallic paint for their car, should we put the same BIK on that as we do for spending another £500 to get AEB fitted? Probably not. If we’re looking at the benefits of those technologies, it means the Government might lose out on some tax take but that is then translated through to reducing congestion, savings in policing costs and savings in health service costs .

With the end of the paper licence counterpart, fleets raised concerns about mandating staff to provide access to the DVLA database for licence checks. One suggested making an electronic licence checking mandate part of the criteria for passing a driving test.

Access to vehicle data to establish driver behaviour was seen as a priority for fleets. With vehicles already containing the necessary technology, thereby eliminating the need to invest in after-fit telematics, enabling employers to tap into that data would help them to tackle driver issues.
“But manufacturers aren’t releasing the data for the safety triggers so you can’t use it to help build any business cases,” said one fleet manager. “We need some protocols for getting access to that data easier.”

One leasing delegate added: “Access to data is key and that’s been part of a long-running debate. That went back to original block exemption regulation where open access to technical data from the vehicle was something that was very closely controlled by the vehicle manufacturers. So for us to have open access to technical information would be a huge step forward.”

While many of the larger, professionally-run fleets have established safety policies, many smaller businesses are unaware of their responsibility to their drivers and the general population.

Part of this is a visibility issue, according to Manifesto delegates, who pointed to the only piece of literature on the subject, the Driving at Work – managing work-related road safety leaflet, which was recently revised by the HSE.

“Maybe there is something that we can put out to the Government to say, ‘I was disappointed the safety at work handbook has been republished as something dry which no-one is ever going to read,” said one.  

“If we actually got that back to something which is more likely to be read and got a proper circulation of it to all small businesses there may be some impact.”

Delegates called on the next Government to ensure that the MOT test remains relevant and up-to-date, particularly with the explosion of new safety technology. They also raised the possibility of introducing text message MOT reminders.
Concerns were also raised about the number of cars failing their MOT with owners subsequently taking up to a month to book the retest.

The automatic number-plate recognition system (ANPR) was suggested as a solution, by broadening its remit beyond identifying drivers that had not paid road tax.

“As a manifesto statement for improving road safety this is an area we should be focusing on – more enforcement by number plate recognition,” said a leasing delegate.

Manifesto Requests

  • Include reporting of at-work vehicle crashes within RIDDOR
  • Re-introduce Government road safety targets
  • Consider tax-based incentives to encourage the uptake of vehicle safety technology by fleets and company car drivers
  • Require drivers to sign a mandate allowing employers to check licences as part of the criteria for passing a driving test
  • Promote the use of open, common data standards that will enable fleets to access safety-related vehicle information in real time
  • Redesign the HSE’s Driving at Work guide to give it greater impact and ensure it is distributed more widely in print or digital form
  • Widen the use of the Automatic Number Plate Recognition system for enforcement on driving licences and insurance

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