Fleet News

Fleets must act on Scots smoking ban

FOR many fleet drivers, last Saturday was a moment in history as it was the last time they could light up in their vehicles without breaking the law.

From Sunday, a so-called Tartan ban was introduced which outlawed smoking in public places.

Although company cars and private cars used on business have escaped the long-arm of the health police for the moment, taxis and vans have not been so lucky.

As a result, stickers need to be fitted to all commercial vehicles educating drivers and passengers that cigarette packets remain closed once the doors shut – although whether they are compulsory isn’t clear.

And the ban doesn’t just apply to fleets based north of the border, as any vehicle crossing into Scotland will need to comply with the law in future.

As a result, parcel delivery fleets, rental firms and taxi fleets which think they might be entering Scotland have to take action.

Despite confusion about how any law will be implemented without the use of specially trained sniffer dogs, fleets have been hard at work clearing up where responsibility lies.

At a recent Scottish regional meeting of Acfo, the fleet managers’ association, members heard that fleet departments will be on the frontline in enforcing the legislation, even if other departments are driving the policy.

The meeting heard that Scottish Executive has sent out packs with information and stickers to help companies comply and educate drivers.

Some companies have introduced an outright ban on smoking in all vehicles, while others have allowed car drivers to continue unaffected – for the moment.

One fleet manager said: ‘The health and safety department has been in control of the ban and policies relating to it. They decided they would ban smoking in all company vehicles, not just cars.

‘But then they sent out stickers to put in cars and vans and they said ‘smoking is banned in this vehicle. In case of queries contact your fleet manager’, so I have to enforce the policy that they introduced.’

Members heard there was widespread uncertainty about who in a company should be in charge of any ban, as it affected all parts of the business, but said they felt their departments were ready.

For many car fleets, the difficulty is whether to extend any ban to cars to protect residual values, but there are concerns about the difficult issue of human rights.

Sally Weeks, regional Acfo chairman, said: ‘We haven’t banned smoking in our cars.’

If the ban was extended, members heard there was a danger of drivers simply opting out, but Weeks added: ‘To opt out of a company car, you need to drive less than 8,000 business miles a year, not smoke 40 cigarettes a day.’

Watching brief for England and Wales

FLEETS in England and Wales will be watching the spread of smoking bans closely to see how they might be affected in future.

With bans affecting company vehicles already in place in Ireland and Scotland, the industry knows it is only a matter of time.

MPs in Westminster recently passed anti-smoking legislation as part of the new Health Bill, but left behind a cloud of confusion over whether the phrase ‘workplace’ would apply to company vehicles.

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said the new Health Bill would ban smoking in ‘virtually every enclosed public space and workplace in England.

'We estimate an additional 600,000 people will give up smoking as a result of this law and millions more will be protected from second-hand smoking,' she said.

The ban will start in summer 2007.

Some of the companies who will be most affected by any ban will be leasing firms, who will have to handle any changes for hundreds of thousands of their new and current drivers on behalf of customers.

Eddie Parker, commercial vehicle expert for leasing giant Masterlease, which manages 15,000 LCVs, said: ‘Masterlease already operates a no-smoking ban in its vehicles across the UK because of duty of care regulations and residual value issues.

‘We will be watching activities north of the border with interest. Few would argue against it because the risks of passive smoking to fellow passengers such as plumbers’ mates or co-drivers in a confined area are obvious.’

Recently BT announced a worldwide ban on smoking in company vehicles.

The group is forbidding staff from lighting up in offices, cars and vans worldwide. BT’s introduction of the ban on March 26 coincides with Scotland’s ban.

Dr Paul Litchfield, BT’s chief medical officer, said: ‘We are trying to promote good health among our staff which is why we are offering support to help people give up smoking. I hope this will encourage people to give up.’

Q&A on Scotland’s smoking ban

Q. So do I still have time to light up for a last time before it comes into force?

A. No, the ban was introduced on 6am on Sunday March 26, 2006. By now half the smokers in Scotland will be crawling the walls with nicotine withdrawal. I hear sales of patches have gone through the roof.

Q. So what does the law do exactly, apart from make smokers really irritable?

A. The new law bans smoking in ‘no-smoking premises’, by creating an offence of permitting others to smoke in no-smoking premises; creating an offence of smoking in no-smoking premises; creating an offence of failing to display warning notices in no-smoking premises; setting out the powers of enforcement officers to enter no-smoking premises; creating an offence of failing without reasonable cause to give one's name and address on request by an enforcement officer.

Q. All my vans aren’t premises, they are vans, so surely it doesn’t apply?

A. Sadly not. Although it includes premises like restaurants, bars, shops, cinemas, offices and hospitals, work vehicles are also in the spotlight, as they are seen as a mobile office.

Q. So if my vans are affected, then cars must be too?

A. No. No-one can understand how civil servants’ minds work, but among a surprisingly long list of exemptions – including submarines and refuelling vessels – you can also puff away in your company car or private car. All cars, whether used for business or private purposes, are exempt from the law, unless they are being used as a private taxi. So company cars will not be caught. All other vehicles, i.e. vans and lorries, used primarily for business purposes and any public transportation vehicles will be affected by the new law.

Q. But surely if I am on my own in a van I am alright?

A. Nope. If you light up in a van, you are commtting an offence and should immediately ring the authorities and turn yourself in.

Q. Can’t I just open a window?

A. Only if you want to attract the attention of a passing bobby who will detect illegal smoke wafting from your vehicle.

Q. My friend runs a car fleet in England – he won’t believe this?

A. He had better because the law applies to no-smoking vehicles travelling in Scotland, irrespective of their origin. If he pops up to see you, then the smoking stops at the border.

Q. Oh this is mad – why should I bother?

A. It isn’t half as mad as you will be if you get caught out. Environmental Health Officers have powers to enter no-smoking premises in order to check whether an offence has taken place or is being committed. Those in control face a fixed penalty fine of £200 if they do not take reasonable action to prevent someone smoking on the premises. Individuals pay £50 or face prosecution and a fine of up to £2,500.

Q. Get me the phone – who do I call?

A. Detailed guidance has been sent out to all businesses in Scotland. If you haven't received this, then call the Order Line 0845 300 3488. Try not to shout. Actually maybe you should just log onto www.clearingtheairscotland.co.uk

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