Fleet News

Study shows drivers put accent on safety

MOST of today's company car drivers want the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving banned, are aware of the introduction last year of an emissions-based company car tax system and would favour a larger choice of vehicles.

They put safety over any other factor when choosing a car and more than three-quarters would happily opt for a diesel.

These findings and many others are produced in Company Cars – The Driver Perspective, published by Godfrey Davis Contract Hire, the business-to-business division of Bank of Scotland Vehicle Management.

The survey of the attitudes and behavioural patterns of fleet drivers found that the company car rates higher than many other company benefits including a generous holiday allowance, health care and flexi-time working.

Only a pension scheme and profit sharing/bonus scheme were deemed as more important.

Speaking at the report's launch, Nigel Underdown, head of customer relationships at Bank of Scotland Vehicle Management, said: 'Our objective is to provide organisations running company car fleets with a greater insight into the mind-set of drivers.

'Changes in company car taxation and the threat of more punitive health and safety legislation, which will see employers being held more responsible for drivers' actions, are just two of a whole range of issues now impacting upon company car fleets. In this respect the report represents an invaluable management tool.'

Here we look at key issues raised in the report and findings from the 700 company car drivers it surveyed.

  • Copies of the report cost £95 and are available by calling Godfrey Davis Contract Hire on 020 8420 5596 or email stephanie.biggerstaff@gdch.co.uk

    Size trends

    The number of vehicles with engines over 2.0 litres has fallen by one-third (from 12% to 8%) from a year ago - a response to the introduction of the emissions-based company car tax scheme.

    Another effect is that the penetration of diesel-engined cars has risen from 36% to 41%.

    The report also notes a decline in the popularity of automatics, from 13% to 8%.

    Underdown said: 'For many models, exchanging a petrol for a diesel or an auto for a manual will immediately drop them down up to five bands on the scale charge.'

    Diesels performed well - with many more drivers prepared to entertain having a diesel car - 79% compared to 71% last year.

    Dual-fuel vehicles, however, are not so popular with 42% saying they would consider having one, down from 50% last year.

    Risk management

    Company car drivers are more likely to be involved in an accident than a private motorist, but the report questions whether this 'fact' should be accepted.

    'The reasons frequently cited for this state of affairs are that fleet drivers cover more miles, are often under time pressure and are not as concerned with the wear and tear they inflict on 'their' car as other motorists,' the report said.

    Although impossible to eliminate such risks, employers can use judicious management control and, where possible, training to help reduce them.

    It says: 'For example, by analysing journey patterns to reduce mileage and possibly make use of other (public) transport modes, by rearranging drivers' schedules and work patterns to reduce pressure, to make drivers more responsible for their actions and penalise persistent offenders.'

    GDCH said its report identifies a 'number' of worrying factors for employers, including an increase in business mileage, drivers spending longer behind the wheel on business, only one-in-five employers checking drivers' licences on a regular basis and two-thirds of organisations having no driver training policy.

    Taxation

    There is now a high level of awareness among drivers (93%) of the emissions-based company car tax system that was introduced in April last year.

    But only 70% of drivers are aware of the actual amount of tax they pay.

    Younger drivers (21-30) are less knowledgeable than their older colleagues - only 73% being aware of the change to emissions-based tax and just 60% aware of their actual tax charge.

    GDCH says the impact of the tax change on drivers' choice of company car is significant, with 70% saying that the introduction of the emissions-based scheme has or will influence their next selection, although 9% claim that they are restricted from making a change.

    Prior to the introduction of the tax system, just 37% of drivers said it was an influence on their choice of car.

    The report adds: 'Fewer drivers (40%) now believe that they will be worse off as a result of the change (down from 47%) with more (26%) judging that they will benefit (up from 22%).'

    But while recognition and understanding of the company car tax scheme is high among drivers, they are not so knowledgeable about the emissions-based fuel benefit charged launched this month, with only 48% of respondents aware of its introduction.

    Fuel issues

    There is a marked decline in the use of fuel cards and company credit cards to pay for fuel, the report found.

    A total of 28% of drivers use these methods of payment, down from 42% last year. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of drivers now pay and recharge.

    The report suggests this trend is a result of a number of factors, including the falling value of company financed fuel, increasing corporate control over fuel usage and even, possibly, employers combating the misuse of fuel cards by drivers.

    Mobile phones

    NEARLY one third of drivers (32%) are still using hand-held mobile phones while driving, prompting a call for employers to provide hands-free units as a matter of course.

    The report said: 'Using a mobile phone while driving is both a physical and a mental distraction.

    'As an elementary step, companies must adopt the principle that if an employee has a company car and a company-issued mobile phone, it must be a hands-free operation.

    This will at least minimise the driver's physical involvement. Employers must lay down clear and concise guidelines on the use of mobiles and a good starting point would be to instruct drivers to 'let the phone ring - pull over - call back'. A safe, simple and workable solution.'

    The report found, however, that drivers were aware of the dangers involved of using mobile phones behind the wheel.

    A total of 91% of respondents believe that using hand-held units has a detrimental effect on driving, although just 46% think hands-free phones have a similar effect.

    The overwhelming majority (88%) believe hand-held phones when driving should be banned and more than a quarter (27%) think hands-free kits should be banned.

    Only one-third of drivers are aware of their employer having a policy on mobile phone usage, while another third are unsure whether one exists or not. The final third state that their employer has no policy.

    On the road

    The study found that nearly two-thirds (63%) of drivers admit to travelling at 80mph or more on a motorway.

    While there is strong support (84%) for increasing the motorway speed limit, drivers are equally adamant about reduced speed limits near to schools - whereas 20% suggest a 25mph limit, the majority (63%) favour a limit of 20mph.

    Drivers were also asked their opinions on penalties for driving offences. A total of 97% of respondents support a heavier punishment for drink-driving, 96% for dangerous driving and 75% for speeding in urban areas.

    Heavier fines for drivers caught speeding are not quite so popular – being favoured by just 10% of drivers.

    The introduction of congestion charging is supported by just 22% of drivers with 27% approving of toll roads. Speed cameras do find favour, however, with 50% of drivers believing they are a good idea.

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