Fleet decision-makers have hammered home their professionalism and commitment to safety by introducing or updating written policies on mobile phones in time for the new law.
The Fleet News industry panel, made up of more than 160 leading fleet decision-makers, was asked: 'Does your fleet have a written policy banning the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving?'
An overwhelming 96% said they had, while just 4% said they had still to take action to tackle the issue.
From Tuesday, December 1, it will be an offence to use a hand-held mobile while driving. Drivers will face a £30 fine if they are caught, although this could rise to £1,000 if the case goes to court.
Provided a phone can be operated without holding it, hands-free equipment is not prohibited, but experts recommend that all use of mobile phone equipment while driving is banned by employers, as it is a distraction.
Drivers have been urged to remember the police can still use existing legislation (for failure to have proper control) if a driver is distracted by a call on a hands-free phone.
The new regulations also apply to 'anyone who causes or permits any other person' to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving.
Employers would not be considered liable purely because they supplied a phone or phoned an employee who was driving. However, they would probably be liable if they required their employees to use hand-held phones while driving or failed to forbid employees to use such phones on company business.
Some fleet decision-makers say they have had policies in place for several years, while others have been prompted by the impending legislation. However, the depth of company policies varies significantly.
Some companies simply say employees should not use hand-held mobile phones, while other companies are considering whether to remove hands-free kits from cars to ensure they are meeting their duty of care to drivers.
Does your fleet have a written policy banning the use of hand-held phones while driving?
Yes: 96% No: 4%
'We have a written fleet health and safety policy, circulated to all drivers who sign to acknowledge receipt of it – this expressly forbids the use of mobile phones while driving.'
Office services manager, Hereward Housing
'I have been terrorized more by people smoking at the wheel than those on the phone. I am now the operations manager for my company and the first thing I have done is introduce a no smoking policy in all company transport. I have found I only have one driver who is careless where mobile phoning is concerned, out of about 40 drivers.'
'We have had a policy banning all use of mobile phones while in control of the car since May 2000 on pure safety grounds.'
Phillippa T Caine
Company secretary, Corgi
'We don't have anything in writing. There may be something put in place in the near future, but as it is law our agreements stipulate that the driver is responsible for following any relevant laws.'
'Our policy also includes other mobile electronic equipment and extends to vehicles on hire and business use of private vehicles. Quite simply, keep it simple. We did not need mobile phones while driving 10 years ago, so we can cope without them now. If a driver needs to keep in touch with his office, then he can do so when he takes his rest stop/ coffee break.'
Administration & data protection manager, RNIB
'A high-profile court case, in which a judge jailed a man for five years for causing death by driving while using a mobile phone, has instigated a radical change in the way we as a company use car phones. Henceforth, mobile phones either hand-held or hands-free, must not be used when the vehicle is being driven. Head office reception staff have been instructed to ask if drivers are on the mobile and if they are stationary when they ring in. If head office rings drivers, the same questions will be asked and, if needed, they will ring drivers back once they have parked up.'
'We are currently installing hands-free kits in all our commercial vehicles that don't already have them. Our heavy users have all been hands-free for years anyway.'
Finance director, Walter-Broadley Machines
'As most of our vehicles are fitted with hands-free kits 'at birth', company phones are not a problem in company cars. But personal phones that do not fit the kits and hire cars are. Therefore, a high-profile message will be delivered to our drivers by means of our normal safety poster campaigns, word of mouth and a personal 'note' delivered to each driver. We will be hammering the point home.'
'Our policy says simply that if you do not have hands-free kit it is 'Engine on equals answer-phone on'. If anyone ignores this ruling, there are grounds for disciplinary action. I have had all the arguments possible, but is your life not worth waiting 30 minutes for?
Fleet manager, Kaba Door Systems
'We have installed hands-free kits in all our company cars. Our policy advocates not even using these while on the move even though they are legal. The difficulty will be getting some of our senior management (particularly our chairman) not to phone people while they're on the move.'
'We have a specific directive that, unless the car is fitted with a hands-free kit including cradle, the phone is only to be used when the driver has properly parked the car. It will be our policy in the next two or three months to equip all company vehicles (other than office-based ones) with a suitable hands-free kits, although we will issue an amended policy statement reminding drivers that this is to be used for receiving calls and not for making them.'
Company secretary, Seco Tools (UK)
'We do have such a policy and fit hands-free kits to all our vehicles. However, we are now considering removing them as fitting them may be seen as condoning the use of the phone while driving.'
'We have had a policy for the past two years. We have been fitting hands-free kits for the past five years. We have just re-stated this policy in line with the new guidance to all drivers regardless as to whether they have a company-issued mobile or their own.'
Group fleet manager, Bowmer & Kirkland
'We already had a mobile phone policy so have only had to update it to reflect the legislation change, fine info and so on. Our policy already reflected the practice the new law requires.'
Manager, UK Fleet Management, Global Fleet Technical Adviser, IBM
'We now have a written mobile phone policy in our company handbook, which is in print at the present time and is due to be issued in the next couple of weeks.'
Financial director, Sherborne Upholstery
'We banned hand-held phone calls while driving a couple of years ago. Recent amendments have been advising the revised legal issue, clearly defining it as a disciplinary offence and insisting hands-free kits are only used when parked. People who complain about 'dead' time are told that if they keep making calls they probably will be.'
'We tell employees that road safety is paramount. We tell them never to use a mobile telephone handset while driving on company business, whether they are in a company vehicle or not. We also tell them they are not required to make or answer calls on hands-free mobile telephones. If they choose to do so, we point out their own responsibility as a driver not to do anything they consider compromises their own safety or that of others.'
'We have incorporated this with a fatigue policy and have instructed drivers to take a break every two hours. During the break they can listen to answerphone messages, make and return calls.'
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