At the Inland Revenue, the past 20 years have seen an enormous growth in the size of its fleet. As a result, its health and safety procedures have been under constant development and are now some of the most innovative in the fleet industry.
Stan Ayling, commercial operations director, said: 'When the department started using pool cars in the early 1980s we only had a fleet of about 90 cars. However, the Inland Revenue pool and 'company car' fleet now comprises 2,200 cars, covering more than 20 million miles a year.
'The pool fleet of about 900 vehicles is based at 250 locations throughout the UK, with each vehicle being used frequently and by a multitude of drivers in any one given location, so wear and tear has increased dramatically. It became apparent that more robust measures needed to be put in place to ensure that not only were the vehicles in a roadworthy condition, but drivers' safety was not compromised.
'With the maintenance, servicing, safety and general care of the vehicle falling to the local manager, we needed to establish whether checks were being carried out on a regular basis and by whom.'
A survey was conducted across pool car locations and the findings revealed key areas for improvement in risk management.
Ayling added: 'At the recommendation of my pool fleet manager Lew Stockwell, who had organised the survey, I decided on a two-pronged attack to tackle the main issues that had come out of the survey. Firstly, staff who were checking the vehicles had never received any training and it was apparent they could not confidently carry out the checks. In a couple of instances we had non-drivers checking cars, which was clearly unacceptable.
'Secondly, we needed to enhance the availability of safety checks to offices by trying to provide a sound alternative means of getting this work done, preferably by some form of mobile mechanic who could visit offices.'
The first move was to organise a national training programme for all staff who were being tasked to carry out the fortnightly safety checks. In partnership with a driver training contractor, the Inland Revenue put together a vehicle inspection and familiarisation course which was rolled out across the UK at 20 key locations. More than 400 members of staff were trained on a theory/practical session lasting half a day and the full programme was completed by March 2002.
Ayling added: 'Next we had to find the mobile mechanic service that could provide these safety checks on a regular basis, at competitive pricing and to our specification. With Kwik-Fit being one of our suppliers, discussions took place between Lew Stockwell and Kwik-Fit. After feasibility studies and local tests with our fleet management company Arval PHH, we launched the first-ever mobile fleet safety and inspection service.'
Since the launch of the service in August 2002, 45 of the Revenue's larger locations have been using the facility, while at other locations the trained staff have been checking their pool cars. All pool cars are now subject to closer monitoring, by suitably trained staff.
A survey showed key areas for improvement, with 11% of cars having tyres below the legal limit, 31% had tyres just on the legal limit, 17% showing low coolant levels, 15% having seriously low engine oil and 11% suffering light malfunctions.