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Fleets safety breach charges likely to rise

Sir – Claims by the Essential Risk Consultancy that implementation of the Government’s proposals on reforming the law of manslaughter will see insurers facing ‘potentially limitless claims’ (Fleet NewsNet, April 14) suggest a degree of confusion.
The proposals would mean corporate bodies (but not their directors) could be prosecuted for manslaughter. It is in fact illegal to insure yourself against criminal prosecution.
There is concern that the proposed criteria for prosecution are so circumscribed that successful conviction will be limited to cases in which employers have done virtually nothing to manage health and safety. Furthermore, it will have to be shown that the organisation sought to profit from its failure to manage safely.
We are far more likely to see more prosecutions being brought in future against companies and their directors for breaches of health and safety law following work-related crashes, particularly since the police are now required to ask whether vehicles involved are being used for work purposes and to liaise with the Health and Safety Executive or Local Authorities.
The HSE has just issued a discussion document on the future of RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations) in which they have accepted the recommendation of the Dykes Committee (and latterly the Work and Pensions Select Committee) that in future any injuries sustained by employees in work-related road accidents should be reportable to enforcing authorities. The Department for Transport sees great potential in MORR for cutting casualties. The HSE is likely to have to abandon its reluctance up to now to become more involved. All these developments are adding weight to existing ethical and business cases for action on MORR and there is an increasing possibility that employees injured on the road will claim.
There is a wide range of factors driving change and those active in the fleet safety field need to be able to explain clearly how they are likely to develop and impact on organisations that have yet to get their act together.

Roger Bibbings MBE
Occupational safety adviser RoSPA

Company cars still most tax-efficient

Sir – I think Nick Brown’s letter in Fleet News (March 31) prompts several questions. First, are company cars more attractive than cash allowances or even Structured Employee Car Ownership Plans (SECOPs)? In our experience the answer is often yes.
Since the changes in company car taxation introduced from April 2002, the ‘right’ company car has become as tax-efficient as it has been at any time since the late 1980s.
While the car can be tax efficient, cash rarely is (notwithstanding mileage allowances which can be tax efficient but can also have dubious commercial side-effects). To offer an employee a cash alternative that leaves them financially no worse off compared to a car often therefore increases the employer’s costs.
However it cannot ever be true that this one solution – the traditional company car – suits all. In practice employers need to weigh up a number of issues, including the financial, HR and administrative implications of each option. Straightforward cash, for example, may not make financial sense but is often attractive to HR departments looking to introduce flexibility into perk car fleets (although health and safety issues should always be considered).
SECOP can and does work for many employers and, when it works, the savings can be astonishing. It’s true that not every employer will make savings and it’s also true that the schemes can be difficult to communicate and administer.
However, KPMG has developed software solutions to both issues that leave both employer and leasing company with little or no more work than with traditional company cars. The key is to understand that each employer is different – and that no one solution fits all. We share Nick’s support for the traditional company car, but cannot unreservedly recommend it to all our clients.

Harvey Perkins
Director, KPMG LLP, People Services

Car club not a share scheme

Sir – I read with interest the article ‘RAC’s concern at car-share plan for M25’ (Fleet NewsNet, March 7), in which you also covered the extension of our Urbigo car club scheme.
I just wanted to clarify that Urbigo is a car club, not a car share scheme – the two are very different. Urbigo is a service provided by Avis Rent A Car that allows members to hire a new car by the hour, not by the day, and is ideal for many companies which need a car(s) for occasional use.
Companies have access to a new car parked close to their company, without the cost or trouble of running pool cars. The scheme is already seeing major interest from companies who find the cars are new, clean and safety-checked.

Penny Stoolman
Sales and marketing director, Avis Rent A Car

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