A SENIOR police officer has called for fleets to turn to their local police force for help in creating safe driving policies to protect them from the threat of prosecution.
The call comes as companies have been warned they are facing an increasing threat of prosecution if they fail to meet key standards in their duty of care to employees on business in fleet or private cars.
Speaking at the Fleet News Hit for Six conference, sponsored by Mazda, chief superintendent Les Owen, head of traffic operational command unit at the Metropolitan Police, said his force was 'here to help', but it was also cracking down hard on unsafe fleets.
He said: 'The help available will differ between forces, but I suggest all fleets start trying to work with the police and ensure their fleet safety standards are up to scratch. Speak to your chief constable or ask for the head of your traffic division or head of operations for the county.
'We can play a role in managing your vehicles and your people, because we are here to help. For example, do you know where the crash hot-spots are in your area, so you can tell your drivers? If not you could ask the police to help identify them.'
But he added a stark warning for Britain's companies, saying: 'We always try to educate first, but where we can't educate, we enforce.'
Holding a copy of the Association of Chief Police Officers' Road Death Investigation Manual, which has a section on corporate liability, he said: 'This document means that when we look at a fatal road accident now, we treat it like a murder or an unlawful killing.
'So fleets must ensure vehicles are properly maintained, that drivers are not doing too many hours behind the wheel and that their licences are in order.'
He added: 'Write a safe driving policy and ask if there is a policy on mobile phone use, speeding or drink-driving.'
And he insisted the police have to get tough on companies and drivers who do not obey the law or have a focus on safety.
Owen said: 'If you have a driving endorsement you are less likely to have an accident in the next three months, so if it will save lives for three months then I want my officers to give you all tickets if you break the law. I have told my officers to prosecute everyone who breaks traffic laws. Reducing casualties is everyone's responsibility and fleet managers can play a major role. Manage your vehicles, manage your people and remember, we are here to help.'
But conference chairman Tony Leigh, who is chairman of the Association of Car Fleet Operators, said non-business drivers should not be ignored.
He said: 'If 30% of accidents involve at-work drivers then that means 70% don't. It is difficult to see how a company is responsible for a driver until 5.30pm, then the driver is responsible on his own at 5.31pm.'