Fleet experts recommend the code be given to all business drivers as the bare minimum when it comes to risk management. And with an extra 29 rules and 42 pages, it could be a good time to ensure the new book finds a home with your staff.
Although not law, the rules are used by police as a benchmark for good standards of driving, so contravening them could land drivers in hot water.
The headline changes to the new code refer to smoking in vehicles – hot on the heels of the revised workplace smoking regulations earlier this year, which include the majority of company vehicles.
But there is also a plethora of other changes within the code, which may – or may not – affect you and your drivers.
It’s no longer just the police who can pull motorists over.
The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) can also wave you in on all roads in England and Wales, while the Highways Agency’s Traffic Officers can also stop you for safety reasons on the motorway.
Not pulling over when you see the flashing orange lights in your mirror is an offence.
Some roads in residential or peaceful areas have specific designations, including Home Zones and Quiet Lanes.
Here, you could come across children playing or a community event. Drivers should proceed slowly and carefully, and be prepared to allow people extra time to make space.
The rules on what to do in slow-moving traffic have been extended to take into account the dangers created by weaving cyclists and motorcyclists.
We’ve all seen them as they snake through backed up queues of cars, so the new Highway Code advises motorists to be aware of them, as they could pass on either side.
TRAMS AND TRAINS
Cyclists are advised to take extra care when crossing tram (and train) tracks.
And just so there’s no mis-understanding, cyclists are required to dismount when they see a “cyclist dismount” sign.
Both trams and trains often use overhead power lines, which due to the massive voltages pulsing through them, are dangerous.
Van drivers must obey the safe height warning signs – should the vehicle touch any height barrier or bells, stop immediately.
The clearance available is usually five metres to six metres but may be lower.
Therefore, drivers should ensure any cranes or other protrusions on the vehicle are lowered.
If you are in any doubt as to whether your vehicle will pass safely under the wires, you should always contact the local police or the tramway operator.
Don’t park anywhere that could get in the way of trams or force other drivers to do so, and never stop on any part of a tram track, except in a designated bay alongside and clear of the track.
Lastly, always give priority to trams. They can’t steer, and they’re bigger than you.
Recent years have seen the introduction of high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, as well as other designated lanes that restrict particular types of vehicle either some or all of the time.
The instructions will be on accompanying traffic signs and are there to be followed.
Vehicles affected include bicycles, buses, taxis and other private hire vehicles, motorbikes and lorries.
HOV lanes must only be used by vehicles containing the minimum number of people specified on the traffic signs. The exception is if you’re on a motorbike or in a bus.
Seldom has one word caused so many headlines.
The word “smoking” has been added to the list of possible distractions that also include loud music, trying to read maps, messing with the stereo, arguing with passengers or other road users, eating and drinking.
Although it doesn’t mean that smoking in the car is illegal, it does mean those smoking behind the wheel are at more risk of prosecution for dangerous driving.
If your drivers aren’t following the legislation banning them from smoking in company vehicles, this could be useful incentive to strengthen the ban.
MERGE IN TURN
Next time someone has a go at you for “pushing in” when moving lanes in roadworks or congestion, point them towards rule 134.
“Merging in turn is recommended,” it says, although only if safe and appropriate when vehicles are travelling at a very low speed, such as approaching road works or an accident. It is not recommended at high speed.
So it’s official – driving up to the merging point and then turning in is not pushing in, it’s using all the available road space.
Should your fleet contain miniature motorbikes (known as mini motos) or motorised scooters (go-peds), then make sure they stay off the roads, pavements, footpaths and bridleways.
Ditto motorised quads and tricycles, unless they meet legal road-use standards. Even then, they shouldn’t be used on pavements.
The chances are your fleet is predominantly comprised of cars and vans, but just in case you have any horses, make sure you’re aware of equestrian crossings.
They have pavement barriers, wider crossing spaces, horse and rider figures in the light panels and either two sets of controls (one higher than the other), or just one higher control panel.
Make sure that any horse-drawn vehicles are operated and maintained in accordance with the DfT’s Code of Practice for Horse-Drawn Vehicles. And those vehicles should have two red reflectors. And lights if used at night.
Dazzled by the sun? Then the advice is slow down and, if necessary, stop. Quite what you’re supposed to do next is not specified. Wait until it gets dark?
Leaving a parked vehicle unattended with the engine running is a big no-no, as is leaving an engine running generally while the vehicle is stopped on a public road.
If the vehicle is stationary and likely to remain so for more than a couple of minutes, put the hand brake on and switch off the engine to reduce both emissions and noise pollution. Unless you’re in a traffic jam or trying to find a fault, in which case it’s OK.