Most company drivers face disciplinary action if they are found to have broken the law, as part of moves by fleets to target car and van drivers still putting their own lives and others’ at risk by using hand-held mobile phones while driving.
Such an attitude to safety is particularly relevant as the Government announced plans for a draft Corporate Manslaughter Bill in last week’s Queen’s Speech that could hold companies accountable for a fatal accident involving one of their drivers if health and safety laws have been flouted.
It also plans tougher legislation in a Road Safety Bill against those who use a hand-held mobile phone while driving, with the penalty of a £60 fine and three endorsement points.
Almost 150 fleets, operating up to 100,000 vehicles, were quizzed in an Association of Car Fleet Operators (ACFO) survey on their attitude to mobile phone use in vehicles.
It found that a substantial number of fleets (74%) had banned their drivers from using hand-held phones up to five months before the law was introduced.
And on the first anniversary of the ban, which came into force on December 1 last year, more than half of respondents proved their commitment to safety by having polices in place also banning the use of hands-free mobile phones behind the wheel – even though they can be used legally.
ACFO director Stewart Whyte said the results of the survey show that the vast majority of fleets had taken an early lead in introducing best practice measures to ensure their employees comply with the law.
The survey found that small and medium-sized companies took the issue as seriously as those in the FTSE 250.
Whyte said: ‘This clearly shows that there was already a significant concern among companies about the road safety implications surrounding the use of mobile phones by drivers prior to the introduction of the legislation.
‘It is clear that a majority of fleets have also taken advice discouraging the use of hands-free phones on board and do not want their employees to attempt any type of telephone conversation while on the road.
‘It is now obvious that fleet operators take a very serious view towards any breach of company driving policy with regard to mobile phone use.’
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) this week called for a new clampdown on those who flout the legislation.
Head of road safety Kevin Clinton said: ‘We want police to take action against everyone they see using a hand-held phone at the wheel. They should run specific campaigns targeting mobile phone users who ignore their own safety and that of the people on the roads around them.’