Fleet News

Guest opinion: Fleet managers must be held accountable

THE debate on fleet safety has received another body of evidence regarding risk, this time commissioned by the Department for Transport. The Road Safety Research Report No 51, Safety Culture and Work-Related Road Accidents was published in July.

The report is part of the Government’s ongoing commitment to reducing road fatalities by 2010, one-third of which it believes involve people at work. This follows the publication last September of the Health and Safety Executive’s guidelines for managing work-related road safety; the most comprehensive guide ever produced dealing with work-related driving.

The Department for Transport report highlighted a perennial problem, which is the absence of accurate statistics on the actual number of road traffic accidents which involve occupational drivers.

The police reporting mechanism which is called STATS 19 does not record the purpose of a journey although some forces do collect this data on a voluntary basis. Furthermore, the employers of occupational drivers are not currently required to report road traffic accidents to the Health and Safety Executive through the RIDDOR system.

It is also suggested that fleet managers are not recording incidents sufficiently to influence their driving risk assessments – essentially they are not managing occupational road risk, particularly in the areas of driver stress and fatigue.

The parameters of the survey were to investigate the relationship between organisational safety culture, worker driver attitudes and accident liability. This was achieved by the investigation of seven fleets covering all sizes and types including both commercial vehicles and company cars.

The study has highlighted areas for improvement and the critical factors for the management of risk to car drivers are fatigue, pressure, training, incident management and communication. Regarding LGV drivers, the critical factors are planning, fatigue, and management.

The recommendations drawn from the study were predictable with the main points relevant to fleet managers being:

  • Fleets should bring a health and safety culture to work-related road safety issues
  • Fleet managers can influence drivers remote from the workplace
  • Fleets should improve incident reporting and react to the data produced
  • Managers should recognise that driving is risky
  • Managers should consult drivers over safety issues

    The reader is left with questions on what’s new and what the Government is going to do to encourage fleet managers to adopt a health and safety culture to work-related road safety ?

    I do not believe the Government will achieve its target until fleet managers are held to account for road traffic accidents. The threat of corporate killing prosecutions gets nearer and the corporate manslaughter prosecutions of managers connected with the Hatfield rail crash are still proceeding.

    The likelihood of fleet managers ending up in the firing line is increasing for fatal accidents and for ‘life-changing’ incidents where significant injuries are involved.

    My warning is a simple one. If you aren’t currently managing the risk or are merely paying lip-service to it please think again as 2010 is not far away, and any accident prevented is possibly a life saved.

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