In his first major industry interview since taking office, Dr Ladyman sent a message to fleets, saying: ‘This sector is very important to me and very important to UK plc.
‘Its members are very important in helping us deliver our targets, such as reducing the number of people killed and seriously injured on our roads and targeting climate change. There is not an area of policy where fleets are not engaged.’
Ladyman said he had a particular affinity with company car drivers, as he currently drives 18,000 miles a year for his role, and before becoming an MP, covered high mileages working for a pharmaceutical company.
He also praised firms that invested in ensuring that the people they put in charge of fleet operations were properly trained to do the job, but they would not force companies to introduce training. He added: ‘The matter for companies is to ensure that the people managing fleets are capable – that they are the right people to do the job.
‘If you run a fleet, it is a core part of your business and having someone who is not qualified doing the job is a strange approach to take.’
Ladyman said his approach would not be prescriptive when it came to advising the fleet industry on how it should be operating.
But he added that firms must accept responsibility for ensuring drivers can cope on the road and recognise their duty of care to employees.
The DfT is currently reviewing recommendations from the Motorists’ Forum, which set out an action plan for the Government to tackle work-related road safety and provide clear guidance for managers.
But Ladyman said: ‘Driving for different companies requires different skills. Whether it is driving as part of the job or just driving between meetings, companies need different approaches.
‘I would be very happy if people used the Driving at Work guidance we published with the HSE, but it is not the only document out there from a safety perspective. One of his clearest messages came on responsibility for drivers using private cars on business.
He said: ‘If drivers are at work, then you are responsible for them. That is it.’ Dr Ladyman welcomed the chance to meet industry figures.
He added: ‘I hope to meet a whole range of people. You wrote a story about what fleet managers want and they were saying ‘the Government must listen to us’. I can promise we are always listening, but that does not mean we will always agree, but I am very keen to engage with the industry.’