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LETTERS to Fleet News’ editor Martyn Moore.

Drivers of all ages are a potential risk

THE feature ‘Is this driver your biggest fleet risk?’ (Fleet News, November 23) highlighted concerning statistics about young drivers and provided some sound advice on how companies can reduce the associated risks.

As a provider of incident management services, we have seen similar trends. For example, the data analysis of one customer revealed that a high number of incidents occurred among employees on their graduate scheme.

Upon further investigation, it was revealed that many of these drivers did not have access to a vehicle prior to joining the company due to being away at university or receiving lower salaries.

Once given high-powered cars as part of their recruitment incentive, their inexperience coupled with the engine size resulted in a number of minor but costly – and potentially dangerous – incidents.

So, while age is a useful indicator to help take preventative measures, it can also be a red herring. Experience and attitude are two indicators that extend beyond age groups.

Companies should not be lulled into a false sense of security by believing that older drivers are automatically experienced or have a sensible approach to driving.

Recent statistics from the DSA show 40% of drivers are passing their test after the age of 22 and we have all witnessed enough irresponsible behaviour on the roads to know that it is not age-related. Similarly, there will be young people with good road sense and a mature approach to driving.

Therefore, identifying potentially vulnerable groups of drivers is a good start to managing risk. However, as incident data builds over time, this should also be used to pinpoint where the real problems are, be it stressed executives, over-confident youngsters or complacent middle-aged drivers.
Harvey Stead
Group sales director, FMG Support

Don’t expect to pay lower premiums

I would like to comment on two of the articles published in the November 30 edition of Fleet News about advanced driving.

In his ‘Gear changes can increase economy’ letter, Mark Edwards stated that the advanced driving method of changing gear at the last moment is designed to save fuel.

When I sat my advanced driving test six years ago, I was told this was actually to save wear and tear on the gearbox and clutch as it is more economical to change brake pads.

In response to Chris Sibson’s Helpline answer regarding advanced driver training, I would like to say that the reduction of insurance premiums for advanced drivers is a complete myth.

I couldn’t even get a decent quote from the Institute of Advanced Motorists themselves.

When I pointed this out to a representative on their stand at a British motor show in Birmingham they agreed with me.

If you want to improve driving standards, I can thoroughly recommend the advanced driving test – just don’t expect it to bring lower personal insurance premiums.
  George Reidford
Senior buyer, Sparrows Offshore Services

Drivers need to find the right balance

I would like to comment on a couple of letters in the November 30 edition of Fleet News, namely lights and gear changing.

Lights: this one has been floating around for years. Ultimately, I would support the Fleet Safety Association’s advice that there is nothing wrong with driving on dipped headlights.

As a motorcyclist, I tend to make the assumption that the car at the junction is going to pull out on me anyway, whether confused by lights or not, and therefore do what I can within reason to manage the hazard.

Gear-changing to slow down:for years, the Institute of Advanced Motorists and other institutions have been promoting the ‘gears to go, brakes to slow’ philosophy, and now another expert comes along and says that it’s all wrong and we have to change back to what our fathers and grandfathers were taught – to use the gearbox to slow down.

You have to balance economy with safe management of the vehicle in a situation where you need to slow down.

It may not be appropriate to slow down on the gearbox due to road surface conditions. Another factor to consider is that slowing down on the box doesn’t illuminate the brake lights so you could be increasing the risk of a rear-end shunt from the driver behind.

Whenever you are changing the speed or position of your vehicle, assess the situation and manage the hazard as efficiently as possible.

That may include illuminating the brake lights or using the brakes because of surface/weather conditions – remember there is no ABS on the gearbox.
Stuart Gemmell
Motor fleet risk manager, Driving Services UK

Charge is easy to manage
I READ with interest Fran Martin’s letter on the problems other people had with keeping up and entering data on to the MIB database (Fleet News, November 23).

I find that as long as you keep it up to date you will not have a problem. Then I read her last sentence ‘If only the congestion charge was this easy’. Well, it is.

One of my first steps when I took over my fleet was to sign up with Transport for London’s Fleet Automated Scheme.

We register the users who enter the congestion zone frequently (£10 admin fee per year) and receive monthly comprehensive invoices detailing their usage, registrations and dates. The site allows you to enter ad hoc journeys for non-registered vehicles as well as looking at past invoices, adding and deleting registered users.

My only criticism was that the process of opening the account and setting it up was a bit slow. However, it cuts out huge amounts of administration work and with our vehicles registered on the database we never receive penalty notices for unpaid charges.

This scheme works extremely well for us. I would recommend any company which has vehicles entering the congestion zone to apply to the scheme. Details are available at www.cclondon.com/fleet-extranet.shtml
John Cotton
Operations support manager, Weblight

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