Godfrey Davis Contract Hire, which operates a fleet of more than 16,000 leased and managed vehicles, said fleets must implement some fundamental changes to help reduce potential risk and protect against liability in the event of a claim.
The warning follows the publication of Home Office proposals to introduce a new offence of corporate killing plus three other offences to deal with death caused by a company's recklessness or carelessness.
Most offences under the proposed law changes, which have gone out to consultation until September 1, will carry a custodial sentence while maximum fines in the lower courts will be increased from £5,000 to £20,000 and may be linked to turnover.
Companies could be forced to elect a director responsible for fleet safety who could face prison if found liable after a serious accident.
John Lyons, Godfrey Davis Contract Hire managing director, said: 'Employers need to demonstrate that preventative checks are in place and that they have taken all reasonable steps to ensure drivers and vehicles are up to the task. This could involve taking a more proactive role in policing driving habits and vehicle road worthiness, putting in processes which, even if a driver failed to adhere to them, would at least go some way to protect the employer.'
The company has written to each of its fleet customers, outlining a series of actions designed to minimise risks:
- Driver qualifications - don't just take the driver's word for it that he or she has a clean licence, and carry out regular licence checks.
- Cars fit for the job - automatic transmission and air conditioning may result in higher rental costs, but companies have to trade this off against the benefits of more alert, and therefore safer, drivers.
- Mileage capping - examine drivers' journey patterns to see whether high mileage is necessary and if the driving burden can be relieved in some way - possibly by using air or rail.
- Service records - companies should require drivers to submit a monthly mileage report to be forwarded to the leasing supplier for cross-reference against the service history.
- Tyre replacement - drivers should submit a tyre safety report from an accredited tyre supplier at regular intervals to ensure the tyres are in good, roadworthy condition.