Fleet News

Guest opinion: Drivers must face up to responsibility

COMPANY car driver complacency is costing business and the fleet industry a fortune in fines and administration.

The latest analysis of penalty charge notices handled by ALD Automotive shows that in the first half of 2005, we administered an average of more than 2,100 fines a month – a 50% increase on the average monthly total for the first six months of 2004.

With more congestion charging schemes expected to be introduced, July’s increase in the London congestion charge from £5 to £8, a continuing increase in the number of speed cameras lining Britain’s roads and local authorities being given new powers to fine motorists for stopping outside school entrances, entering pedestrian zones, sitting in yellow-box junctions and ignoring warning signs such as no right or left turns, I can only see the number of penalty charge notices handled by ourselves and our competitors increasing unless company car and van drivers take their legal responsibilities more seriously.

In the first six months of 2005, out of a total of 12,598 penalty charge notices received in relation to the 45,000 vehicles on our fleet, 5,600 were related to drivers breaking speed limits, 5,468 to motorists parking illegally and more than 1,200 to the non-payment of the London congestion charge.

It seems to me that we are living in a culture where, alarmingly, fixed penalty charge notices have almost become an acceptable part of business life. However, in reality, what the rapid proliferation of penalty charge notices shows is that drivers are prepared – perhaps under time and business pressures from their employers – to break the law.

The alarming rise in the number of fixed penalty charge notices also highlights the risks company car and van drivers are prepared to take as they go about their daily lives.

With almost 80% of companies failing to have any sort of occupational road risk management strategy in place it is hardly surprising that, in many cases, the increase in the number of fines is symptomatic of a laissez-faire attitude to occupational road risk management by businesses – arguably the number one issue facing fleet decision-makers and company bosses.

Meanwhile, under the terms of current legislation applicable to most penalty charge notices, we – as the vehicle owner – pay the fines. We then reclaim the fine from the customer/driver plus an administration fee.

This process involves a considerable amount of in-house administration, which the fee helps to cover.

But the number of fines we are receiving on a daily and monthly basis is escalating unchecked.

Although behind-the-scenes discussions are taking place to see if it is possible to amend legislation to allow liability for all fines to be charged direct to the end-user, the on-cost the industry will not go away.

The willingness of company car drivers to break the law not only costs drivers significant amounts of money in fines and their employers cash as they pay the administration fee, it is also costing the industry a fortune in administration time and money.

That is all in addition to the roads being less safe than they might be if drivers were more law-abiding.

The only way to end this growing acceptance of fixed penalty notices and reduce the cost and administration burden facing us all is for company car and van drivers to become more aware of their responsibilities – take notice of speed cameras, street signs and pay the London congestion charge when they enter the zone and ultimately to drive within the law.

Nigel Fletcher
Deputy managing director, ALD Automotive

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