Fleet News

News analysis: Boards must pull together or risk disaster over safety

A MAJOR new study has suggested that UK companies could be heading for a ‘potential disaster’ if boardrooms fail to put fleet safety at the top of their agendas.

As revealed on FNN last week, a fleet safety strategy blueprint has been launched after a number of company directors were found to be ‘out of touch and disengaged’.

It found that 79% of businesses do not have a risk management strategy in place nor do they plan to implement one.

The Kwik-Fit Fleet-backed report, called ‘Profit Through Safety: A Boardroom Plan for Action’, features research carried out by leading industry expert Professor Peter Cooke, who warned of a ‘disturbing gap in board awareness of fleet safety’ in large organisations.

He also noted that in small to medium-sized businesses, ‘the implementation of fleet safety policies is too often lacking’.

Cooke said: ‘Directors appear to have a paucity of knowledge of fleet operations and a delegation of the responsibility to the fleet executive or another middle manager.

‘Given the new ethos of care and the business car, such an attitude may need to change quickly.’

The study suggests that organisations may not yet have an awareness of, or appreciation for, fleet safety.

Kwik-Fit Fleet acting head Mike Wise said: ‘It is alarming that 79% of companies have not compiled a car fleet risk management strategy.

‘Directors must review their relationship with vehicles used on business by their organisations and ensure there is a robust strategy and reporting protocols in place.

‘Our findings show that directors are not generally well informed or involved in the business car fleet or provision of personal business mobility by individuals using their own cars.’

  • Profit Through Safety: A Boardroom Plan for Action, costs £99 and is available by calling Kwik-Fit Fleet on 01727 840206, or email info@kwik-fitfleet.com

    Role of the fleet executive

    DUTY of care responsibilities have forced the role of fleet executive to change dramatically – even over the past couple of years.

    But not all organisations have formally recognised the changes, the report suggests. Fleet decision-makers now have to perform fleet safety and risk management duties as well as having a bigger involvement in areas such as human resources, monitor ing and management.

    Cooke said: ‘The fleet executive role now includes ensuring the vehicles selected are fit for purpose.

    ‘Driver checking – in terms of documentation – insurances and licences – has become a part of the role. Management of an ever more transparent audit trail to protect both the company’s funds and prove it is actively complying with an increasingly onerous proactive reporting and monitoring environment has also been handed to the fleet executive.’

    The report notes that the fleet executive has also become ‘personal business mobility co-ordinator’, a role that has him or her advising staff on the most cost and time-effective means of making company funded journeys.

    It calls the developing role of the fleet executive ‘the four Ms’ – managerial, motivational, mentoring and monitoring. Cooke said: ‘The net result of these changes is the need for a close link between the fleet executive and the board. Remember, while ‘it may never happen’ in your organisation’ the HSC and CPS will watch fleet operations ever more closely – and the fines, let alone the adverse publicity, could be significant indeed for serious transgressors.’

    The Four Ms:

  • Managerial – the role has extended to include vehicle suitability for the role
  • Motivational – developed from the historic function of the fleet executive but now embraces and encourages issues such as safer driving, stopping employees using phones while driving as well as encouraging them to seek the most suitable routes to minimise time and mileage driven
  • Mentoring – regarded by some as a controversial role for the fleet executive but could mean acting as a sounding board to drivers advising on driver related stress and road rage, for example
  • Monitoring – establishing and maintaining transparent audit trails in case of an incident that requires them to show that the organisation and driver were doing everything requested of them. This is perhaps the biggest burden for smaller companies.

    Role of the board

    MOST boards are not well informed or involved in the company fleet and do not understand the extent to which employees use their own cars for work purposes. The report encouraged company boardrooms to create a formal structure so they are aware of the business car operation within their business. Actions to improve board fleet awareness and safety monitoring covered eight key areas, including a full policy review at board level, better communication to all staff and improved record keeping.

    Eight-point boardroom plan

  • Formally undertake a company car policy review annually at board level
  • Nominate a board director to take responsibility for fleet
  • Develop/report a strategic risk register for the business car
  • Establish a board level policy regarding employee provided cars on business
  • Record/report car safety incidents at board level on a regular basis
  • Establish key performance indicators for the fleet executive
  • Ensure there is a sustainable reporting and monitoring mechanism regarding the business car
  • Board communication to all company and business mobility car users

    Private car use

    FLEET executives are at the forefront of fleet safety regarding the use of employee-provided cars for business.

    Companies need to be able to monitor the employee-provided vehicle on an ongoing basis to ensure the car provided is not only roadworthy but is of an appropriate quality to represent the business and appropriately insured for the business role in which it will be used.

    Cooke said: ‘Such an arrangement may require a disproportionate amount of time and effort.’

    But at the very least, fleets should consider vehicle inspection, possibly including cleanliness, road fund tax, MoT certificate and insurance documents.

    Each requires a physical review and the report says that the administrative effort required to undertake such actions is ‘significant’.

    He added: ‘No wonder some organisations are moving away from cash-for-car into new variants that might bring car provision more closely under the control of the business and utilise employer nominated insurance programmes.’

    Small fleets

    SMALL fleets are more likely to be unaware of a major work-related road safety report produced by the Health and Safety Executive than larger ones.

    In 2003, the HSE produced its ‘Driving at Work: Managing Work-Related Road Safety’ document which has become a benchmark for the fleet industry and is described by Cooke as ‘essential reading’. Out of 100 directors quizzed for the survey, 27% had read the guide and 35% were aware of it but 38% were not aware of its existence. The 24-page report was produced a year ago and provides a checklist of areas that fleets need to examine to be certain they are meeting their duty of care to employees.

    But Fleet News' research carried out soon after its launch found that half of fleet decision-makers had failed to read it. At last week’s Hit for Six, nearly half of all delegates admitted they had yet to see the vital document, which lists more than 60 key responsibilities of fleet managers.

    The guide was launched following research which estimated that up to one-third of all road traffic accidents involve somebody who is at work at the time. Cooke says of the Profit Through Safety report findings: ‘This document is free, readily available, can be downloaded and has been widely quoted and publicised. It is not a large or complex document.’

  • The Driving at Work: Managing Work-Related Road Safety can be found by clicking on the Links section on FNN
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