Fleet News

Fleet panel: 50% think staff are breaking phone law

EMPLOYERS have spent millions of pounds on new technology and training to avoid staff using hand-held mobile phones while driving – but is the message getting through?

Concern has been raised in recent months that since the Government banned the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving, car users have ignored the law and carried on making calls.

It is certainly a minority, but employers have to be aware if their drivers are the culprits, in case their stubbornness causes an accident while driving on business.

Clearly, fleet decision-makers can only do so much to ensure drivers comply with the law, but they must be able to prove they have done everything they can to meet their duty of care to employees and other road users. The evidence is there that something needs to be done.

According to recent research by Green Flag Motoring Assistance, one-third of drivers say their employers have made no attempt to advise them about the use of mobile phones when driving for work, despite last December's ban.

Only one in four have been clearly updated on new company policy as a result of the ban, it claimed (Fleet NewsNet March 11).

Further research carried out by telematic specialist Toad Group revealed that middle-aged men in full-time employment were among the worst offenders for leaving hand-held mobile phones switched on while they are driving.

Toad found that the age group most likely to answer their mobiles on the move was 35 to 44-year-olds. Drivers in full-time employment are also more likely to break the new law with only 39% of this group always switching their phones off when driving and with no plans to change their habits.

A total of 58% will answer it if it rings, 12% will happily make a call and 11% will send or read text messages (Fleet NewsNet January 22).

When we asked the Fleet News panel, half said they believe that some of their drivers were illegally using hand-held mobile phones while driving. Some may feel under pressure, but others may not be aware of the law, or be clear on the extent of the law.

Recently, police prosecuted a driver who had parked to use her hand-held mobile phone, but she had left the engine running. Technically, this is a breach of the law.

The results:

Yes: 51%
No: 49%

'Our drivers all have phone kits and are under 'pain of death' on this issue. It is also covered in our company vehicle policy which has now been renamed company vehicle and mobile phone policy as one reflects the other. They have been amalgamated to leave only one document to read, leaving no room for anyone not to be aware of company rules.'
Ann Dukanovic
Fleet manager, Kaba Door Systems

'Definite no. As an organisation involved in the research on the effects of mobile phones, we have strict instructions issued not just to fleet drivers but to all staff.'
Howard Rose
National Radiological Protection Board, Didcot

'All our company vehicles are fitted with proper hands-free kits and so there would be no reason for the driver to be holding a phone while using it.'
Nick Welch
Pinnacle Insurance

'Probably yes, despite them all signing formal acknowledgments of our clear company mobile phone policy. In the absence of publicity of frequent convictions for non-compliance with this new specific law, many drivers are drifting back into holding mobiles. It would be naïve to believe that none of ours are doing the same while out of our sight. It is no good formulating law if it isn't noticeably enforced.'
Alan Manship
Fleet manager, Nu-Swift International

'This new law, like many driving laws, is almost impossible for us as fleet managers to police and we can only trust our drivers to stay within the law. While our drivers seem to attract numerous penalty points every week for speeding we have still to see any drivers fined for using a hand-held mobile phone. Until the police take a more proactive approach, I fear little will change.'
Mick Donovan
Group fleet manager, Bowmer & Kirkland

'All of my drivers are aware that the changes implemented by myself form a part of their terms and conditions of employment. The rules are that if they have to touch the handset to answer a call or make a call they are not allowed to use the handset while driving.
The handset should be switched off and at regular intervals they should stop, switch off the engine and remove the ignition key. They should then pick up their messages and make their calls before resuming their journey.
I like to think that all of my drivers are adult, mature people who understand the implications of their actions but I cannot be with them all the time. I have not received reports of either prosecutions or accidents resulting from 'illegal' use of a mobile so I can only expect that they are following the rules.' David Carter
Fleet and operations manager, Microtechs.net

'Every one of our fleet vehicles is fitted with a full hands-free car kit and the company policy on use of mobiles is clearly stated, in accordance with current law and health and safety best practice. It has been communicated to all drivers, not just those with an allocated company car.'
David Mullins
Administration manager, Slough Estates

'We expect all our drivers to drive with due care and consideration for others, and to comply with all aspects of the law. Realistically, I doubt there is any fleet that does not have drivers speeding, parking illegally or using their phones when they should not be, despite clear instructions from their employer.'
Phil Redman
Manager, UK Fleet Management, IBM

'I hope not after all the work I have put in to get the message across to all our drivers. I've lost count of the number of drivers (not ours) I have seen blatantly using mobile phones and it does make me very cross.
Our company rules are in place but unfortunately it doesn't matter how firm the rules are, it is very difficult to monitor whether or not our drivers are conforming unless something awful happens and the culprit is found out. If anyone has an easy answer to this I would be only too happy to hear from them.'
Heather Loveday
Cope & Timmins Group

'We have included instructions in our terms and conditions and have made the illegal use of the mobile phone a disciplinary act. We have instructed our drivers only to receive calls if they have a 'hands-free' kit fitted (we have fitted this equipment to most of our vehicles) but not to make calls unless their vehicle is properly parked.'
Richard Warner
Company secretary, Seco Tools (UK)

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