Fleet News

Risky business: how an assessor can help yours

OFTEN in life, if you need a difficult job doing, it is easier to pay someone to do it for you.

Moving house and getting married are good examples. Most removal firms and wedding planners charge a fortune – but you put your feet up while someone else does the hard work.

Risk management is currently one of the hottest topics in fleet and operators have a choice – find out for yourself if the fleet complies with health and safety regulations or employ a risk adviser.

Small fleets may argue that with the correct resources, in-house risk management can be done with ease. However, the more vehicles on the fleet, the more difficult it becomes to monitor drivers and, despite the initial cost of employing a risk assessor, many fleets claim to have recouped the costs.

A professional risk assessment costs £800 to £1,200 for a 100-strong fleet, according to Jeremy Hay, director at Essential Risk Consultancy.

Direct Communications, which installs and maintains public address and two-way radio systems, lost £60,000 in accident damage last year among its Huntingdon-based fleet of 30 vans and 15 company cars.

The firm appointed DriveTech (UK), which audited driving policies and issued employees with online risk assessments. The 16 drivers designated as high risk underwent on-road training, while other employees attended road safety workshops.

Gavin Bailey, fleet manager at Direct Communications, said: ‘Since introducing the safe driving training programme, none of our drivers have been involved in a road traffic incident.

‘It has been a huge commitment to make, but it has been worth it.’ Driver training is just a small part of a risk assessment and a qualified risk assessor will usually spend between half a day to a day at the premises to assess the fleet. Data gathered forms part of a report and an action plan is delivered to the fleet with updates possible throughout the year.

Demand for services is growing, so much so that Norwich Union recently employed nine additional risk assessors to train specifically in fleet risk management.

Bill Pownall, risk manager motor at Norwich Union, said: ‘A fleet risk assessor should already be a specialist recruited from the transport industry, have experience in fleet management and be able to survey a full range of fleets.’

To make the grade the new assessors at Norwich Union complete a three-day classroom course and shadow a trained fleet risk assessor, before returning to the classroom a year later for a follow- up course.

The course covers every aspect of risk management, from managing accidents and transport law to CO2 emissions and corporate manslaughter.

Pownall said: ‘We want fewer accidents and we want them to be less severe.

‘We are trying to convince people to adopt simple procedures to prepare for legislation such as the Corporate Manslaughter Bill. There is no point in doing something when it becomes law, it needs to be done now.

‘It is all about preventing accidents. We don’t want fleets to provide a mission statement such as ‘we will reduce accidents by 20%’. If there are 500 accidents a year, 20% is not acceptable. We don’t want to see any accidents. We want to convince fleets that road risk is an integral part of health and safety and the two need to work together.’

Go it alone or employ a risk assessor? – the choice is yours


Jeremy Hay, director or the Essential Risk Consultancy, outlines why fleets should use a professional risk assessor:

  • From a legal point of view, if it goes wrong the fleet manager could be sacked but if fleets appoint a risk assessor they could sue the assessor

  • Professional risk assessors are qualified or have a background in health and safety

  • Often, fleet managers don’t want to tackle the sales director or board members but a risk assessor can speak to them directly

  • They have expertise dealing with fleets. If you work in an organisation long enough, you don’t notice if a light bulb is out. A risk assessor will

  • A good risk assessor will make sure that the whole action plan will return investment, lower insurance premiums and is practical


    Dave Wallington, group safety adviser at British Telecom, has saved BT thousands of pounds through safety initiatives. He backs the in-house risk management route:

  • You understand your business. You know the people, the organisation and the restrictions the organisation works under

  • You do not rely on an external person to go through the tender process

  • An in-house assessor can understand business cultural differences and respond quickly

  • It can be cheaper if you have the people available to do it

  • It can be integrated with a wider programme such as health and safety

  • If it is a success the fleet manger will get the credit for all the hard work which has been done
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