Fleet News

Big U-turn for Government in promise to hit crash-happy fleets

THE Government has performed a U-turn in its determination to hit 'crash-happy' firms hard in its plans to improve the safety of company car and van drivers. Successively in the last few months the Government has expressed 'growing concern' at the frequency of accidents involving at-work drivers and Lord Whitty, road safety minister, warned after a damning attack on fleets' safety that complacent fleet managers would be singled out in the road safety strategy.

The long-awaited strategy, launched last week by Prime Minister Tony Blair, was expected to crack down hard on fleets' safety records. But the strategy's emphasis on debate and consultation with the aim of reducing road deaths and serious injuries by an overall 40% from 43,500 to 17,400 by 2010, with a 50% reduction for children (from nearly 6,000 to about 2,300) means it has no immediate effect on fleets.

At the launch, Lord Whitty said: 'The bigger fleet managers are good at it but it is the small and medium fleets that need to do more. There are simple measures fleet managers could take to improve safety standards, such as reinforcing the message that if people are drowsy then they should stop until they recover.' He also emphasised the importance of road safety in road design - particularly as road safety is the number one issue for the Highways Agency.

Lord Whitty praised the large fleets who send their drivers on training courses and take seriously their responsibility for their drivers. Speaking at the launch of the strategy, Lord Whitty said: 'I believe fleet managers do have a responsibility which quite frequently is not observed in the way other health and safety standards are. We are bringing in the HSE to set up an inter-agency group to give a greater priority of managing systems for vehicle safety. More effective driver training for fleet drivers and experienced drivers needs to be brought into the system, particularly for those who do high mileage.'

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