Fleet News

Guest opinion: your duty of care is clear-cut when it comes to windscreens

BILL Duffy, managing director at RAC Auto Windscreens, urges all fleet managers to adopt a higher level of responsibility for corporate safety.

'Corporate responsibility has become a major issue for the fleet manager, particularly in respect of work-related road safety and proposed revisions to corporate manslaughter legislation.

This isn't about scaremongering but as a business servicing the fleet industry, we see reasons to be concerned.

We have, and always will be, a company car nation.

There are about three million company car drivers in the UK. But, following changes to company car tax, it seems we have forgotten about the five million or so drivers who use their own vehicles for work journeys.

This creates a grey area over who is responsible for the safety and upkeep of these vehicles. Fleet managers would be wise to review car policies to cover every eventuality.

I am sorry to say it is something the industry is slow to react to. You only have to look at the findings from the RAC Report on Motoring, 'Driving on Company Business', published earlier this year.

Six out of 10 fleet managers were aware of potential revisions to corporate manslaughter legislation and its impact but the policies they implemented were so varied that very few could be considered watertight.

Shockingly, four out of 10 fleet managers claim to have no car safety policy at all. When you consider that safety policies need to account for mobile phones, ensuring drivers take sufficient breaks, training, and the roadworthiness of a vehicle, it is quite astounding that the survey could find even one fleet manager that had no safety policy. It is now time for action. Great attention, and rightly so, is paid to brakes, tyres and steering, but what thought is given to the windscreen? I can assure you it is very little in relation to its unquestionable contribution to all round driver and vehicle safety.

We see so many vehicles with a cracked or chipped windscreen yet it only takes strong sunlight or the headlight glare of on-coming traffic to cause light refraction that can potentially obscure a driver's vision.

We've tried to understand why vehicles are left in such a condition. Is it complacency? Is it lack of awareness? Or is it cost? The reality is that it's all three. Complacency and awareness need to be addressed through driver education and training, but on cost let me explode the myth.

The windscreen will only need replacing if the damage exceeds the British Standards code of practice 'BS AU242a'. Most damage can be repaired if it is dealt with promptly but once moisture and dirt penetrates the chip, a replacement becomes necessary.

And what of quality? The fleet manager would very rarely leave the company car driver to find a garage for brake pad or tyre replacement. The same can't often be said of the windscreen. What any fleet manager wants to avoid is his drivers thumbing through the Yellow Pages and calling the first windscreen repair business they see, not taking into consideration reputation, experience and quality. The consequences don't bear thinking about.

If a vehicle with an incorrectly fitted windscreen is involved in a collision, its bodyshell is likely to suffer from reduced structural strength and will not absorb collision damage as intended. It could also impact on the safety features within a vehicle too.

The common thread through all of this is quality and ensuring watertight systems are implemented and adhered to. It's not easy since the fleet manager is in an unenviable position.

Not only do they have to be experts on car maintenance, training, finance and management it now seems they have to have a legal brain too. More and more the onus of corporate responsibility will be shared between the company director and fleet manager; to do nothing or to act half-heartedly is not an option.

Act before it's too late.'

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