Fleet News

Road death toll forces fleet risk management action

MORE people die in work-related road accidents than all other industrial and workplace accidents put together, a shock new Government report will reveal next week, which is set to spark a massive overhaul in the way fleets are run. Research carried out last year, has shown that more than 1,000 deaths could be caused by work-related road accidents each year, compared to 622 deaths caused by all other workplace accidents, ranging from farms to buildings sites, chemical factories and mines.

The new research, which will be revealed in a Government consultation document launched on Thursday, March 1, estimates that 25%-33% of all road accidents involve vehicles being driven on work-related business. Based on accident figures for 1999, the latest available, which show there were 3,423 deaths, 39,122 serious injuries and 277,765 slight injuries on Britain's roads, between 855 and 1,129 deaths each year involved vehicles driven 'at-work'.

A further 12,910 serious injuries on the roads would be work related and although the research did not cover slight injuries, the estimates would suggest 91,662 people are injured in 'at-work' accidents. The figures include pedestrians and third parties involved in accidents and covers all vehicles, not just cars, but the findings have led to a dramatic hardening of Government opinion on what has to be done to cut fleet accidents rates.

Leading figures in Government suggest the Health and Safety Executive is on the brink of forcing employers to implement stringent risk management policies. The new consultation document will offer fleets a four-point plan for slashing road accidents, covering monitoring, training, and changing both company and driver culture. It will also ask whether companies should be advised on how to act, or forced through legislation. A key focus of the document will be the need for safety to become a boardroom priority, which could officially lift fleet management into the heart of company decision-making.

The document has been prepared by the influential inter-agency Work Related Road Safety Task Group to consider ways of preventing work-related road traffic incidents and casualties, set up as part of a review to see how best to reduce road casualties, which is headed by Richard Dykes, group managing director of the Post Office. Fleet NewsNet understands the plan will include proposals for formal risk management strategies to be implemented by fleets, including areas such as the use of mobile phones and a focus on benchmarking against best practice in the industry. A 'naming and shaming' policy for breaching Health and Safety regulations could also be extended to fleets.

A key area will be the potential introduction of an operator's licence for van users, which Government insiders suggest could lead to a similar licence scheme for operators of company cars, or private cars used on business. Les Philpott, task group secretary, said: 'This is intended to be an evolutionary process, not a revolutionary one. There is an economic case to improve safety, as well as a moral one.' Following publication of the document, a major conference to debate the issues raised in the discussion process will be held in April.

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