Fleet News

DfT crash report is flawed, say fleets

A MAJOR new report into work-related road safety has been criticised for having ‘significant failings’ by Britain’s fleet operators.

The 133-page report, called ‘Safety Culture and Work-Related Road Accidents’, concludes that companies should bear the main responsibility for improving safety, rather than drivers, and that a firm’s attitude to occupational road risk translates directly to employees’ behaviour.

However, the report – commissioned by the Department for Transport (DfT) – admits there are major problems with collecting accurate statistics on how many accidents at-work drivers have as there are no official means for reporting such incidents. It says: ‘It should be remembered that many of the car accidents may have involved company cars but currently the data does not allow these to be separated out.’

Association of Car Fleet Operators (ACFO) director Stewart Whyte said: ‘A significant failure of the report is to recognise the issue of ‘at-work driving, irrespective of the ownership status of the car.’

‘The document persistently refers to the company car when one of the most important features of the Dykes report was to clarify once and for all that ‘if the employer commissions a journey by the employee, the employer carries what duty of care and health and safety as may apply’.

‘ACFO urges significant research into the real scale of road accidents of any severity which actually involve cars at work, cars, vans and private vans. We need to get a handle on these statistics, otherwise the company car will be blamed for something of which it is not guilty.’

Despite the admitted lack of objective evidence, the report concludes that employers are the key influences in the behaviour of employees on the road. It said: ‘Perhaps most importantly, the relationship appears to be strong enough to suggest that improvements to a company’s safety culture could be used to influence driver attitudes and help reduce occupational road risk.

‘All individuals are strongly influenced by the culture of which they are a part. Culture influences people’s values, their beliefs and can in turn determine their behaviour. Individuals can easily ‘forget safety’ but a safe culture can compensate for this by providing reminders and ways of working that serve to sustain vigilance.’

The report also hinted at the spectre of putting companies in the dock for failing to operate adequate safety procedures, saying the DfT should consider ‘legislation that will help to reduce occupational road risk’.

It recommends areas for further investigation, such as an evaluation of driver training, and what motivates companies to develop management systems and a culture that promotes occupational road risk, and the best way to measure a firm’s commitment to that culture.

  • The report is available at www.dft.gov.uk in the ‘what’s new’ section.

    Key report findings

  • The DfT, companies and other stakeholders should consider aspects of safety culture when addressing work-related road safety issues, in particular, training, procedures, planning, incident management/feedback, management/supervision and safety communications
  • Companies should be aware that by improving their safety culture they can improve the safety attitudes of drivers
  • Companies should consider improving incident reporting and feedback, and these should be tailored specifically for use with on-road incidents
  • Companies should acknow-ledge that car driving carries as much risk as driving larger vehicles and that there may be considerable lessons to be learnt from managing LGV operations
  • Smaller companies should be persuaded as to the significance of occupational road risk and the benefits to be gained from addressing the issues
  • Drivers should be consulted on problem areas and solutions to ensure that driving risk management is likely to be effective. Employee representative bodies should be used to help bring about influence
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