Fleet News

Agenda for Action Conference: ‘Directors will be driven out by corporate manslaughter rules’

GOVERNMENT attempts to urge wider use of legislation to punish fleet and company executives who ignore their duty of care to drivers, are likely to fail, claims former Conservative minister Steven Norris.

Despite this, Norris expects many people in business to give up directorships because of concerns about possible charges.

He said: ‘Corporate killing legislation is likely to be less of a success than ministers hope. That’s because it is necessary to prove that a corporate decision caused the death, which is extremely difficult.’

Norris cited a wealthy property developer who until recently was a director of 33 companies but is stepping down because of the legal situation. The same man now holds six directorships and said he would hold none within two years, although he will still own his main business.

Norris was speaking at Agenda for Action, a fleet management conference at the Heritage Motor Centre, Gaydon, Warwickshire, hosted by Lloyds TSB autolease.

Key agenda items were minimising running costs, reducing corporate risk and developing best-practice policies. Norris, chairman of the Prince Michael International Road Safety Awards Scheme, defended the continuing use of automatic speed cameras, which were introduced when he was road safety minister.

He said only Japan matched the UK’s success in reducing road casualties, although he was concerned that driving offences linked to drink and drugs were increasing.

‘I believe we have taken our eye off the drink/driving ball and there is no room for complacency in getting the message over to young drivers,’ he said.

‘The previous generation got the message, and took turns to drive on nights out without drinking, but it is like product advertising – you can never assume your brand will stay strong without continuing effort. The 18-24 age group remains vulnerable.’

In the 1990s, the UK and the rest of Europe reduced deaths and serious injuries, and Norris said this country was on target for a planned 25% to 30% reduction in those killed and seriously injured by 2010.

He said there was real concern that the current total of about 3,500 road deaths a year, or 10 a day, would be difficult to cut further.

He told delegates: ‘It may be because people have become bored, or that they regard driving as an occupational risk. Driver training and retraining is essential.’

Norris said ‘How’s my driving?’ stickers on the rear of vehicles were beneficial, but anyone wanting to make a mobile phone call was responsible for doing so only when it was safe.

He said he could not understand why the death of four people in a rail accident warranted a memorial service, while the equivalent of an airliner full of passengers died each month on UK roads without a similar response.

  • John Lewis, British Vehicle Renting and Leasing Association (BVRLA) director general, who chaired the conference, said legislation pressures were increasing on companies who were trying to run fleets well.

    He said: ‘The BVRLA handled 24 consultation documents last year, and there have been 27 so far this year.’

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