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LETTERS to Fleet News’ editor Martyn Moore.

Blame drivers for increase in shunts

With regards to your front page story ‘Rear-shunt epidemic hits fleet crash tally’ (Fleet News, April 12), it isn’t the clogged roads that cause the crashes, it’s the drivers.

Company fleet crash statistics consistently demonstrate more than a quarter of rear-end collisions are caused by drivers failing to manage themselves safely.

But should some of the responsibility for this lie with the fleet operators themselves and the way they respond to the occurrence of damage within their fleets?

In many cases, drivers report minor crashes directly to accident management companies through online systems. Line and fleet managers often may not get to hear about the incident until days or weeks later as the driver gets a replacement car and carries on.

Often there is no interview or accountability process which means there is no incentive to change behaviour.

Some companies (our clients among them) have realised that looking closely at minor crashes, identifying causes and making drivers account for their actions can be valuable in highlighting that it is not ‘inevitable’ or inconsequential to have accidents just because they are on busy roads.

And let’s not forget, it’s not only the driver of the car behind that may be entirely responsible – the driver in front can work to protect the rear of his vehicle by:

  • Keeping the brake lights illuminated when stationary until the car behind is seen to slow.
  • Making sure it is safe to pull away at a roundabout instead of pulling away then stopping.
  • Leaving enough space when stationary in traffic so as to extend the braking distance of the vehicle coming up behind.
  • Illuminating brake lights earlier and using light braking early on when approaching tailbacks.

    There is still too much of the ‘it’s inevitable, we’ll have crashes’ culture out there among drivers . It’s a management issue for fleets and drivers will only change their behaviour if there is motivation for them to do so.

    Management has to provide that motivation if they are going to make a dent in minor crash occurrence rates.

    Stuart Gemmell
    Motor fleet risk manager,Driving Services UK

    Be aware of income tax implications

    THE mileage claims Helpline (Fleet News, April 12) detailed the corporate risk considerations but failed to cover the income tax consequences.

    Where an employer contributes to an employee’s private mileage incurred while driving a company car, the employer is effectively providing fuel for private use.

    This is taxable as a benefit-in- kind and reportable on Form P11D. Class 1A National Insurance Contributions (NIC) would then be calculated on the fuel scale charge. This is payable by the employer.

    Income tax would also be charged on this amount payable by the employee.

    The fuel scale charge is determined by the CO2 emissions of the company car and applied to a fixed amount which is currently set at £14,400 for the 2007/08 tax year.

    In theory, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) would levy a fuel scale charge for all employees where even one mile of private mileage is reimbursed.

    The company is able to put this right before the end of the tax year and one way to do so is by seeking reimbursement from the employee(s) at HMRC recommended rates.

    Failing that, an agreement with HMRC would need to be reached to the company settling the debt. This would most likely be settled on a grossed-up basis with interest and penalties potentially levied in addition.

    Penalties – up to £3,000 per form – can be charged by HMRC for incorrect Forms P11D given that it is the employer’s responsibility to provide a Form P11D to the employee in receipt of the benefit and to HMRC.

    In addition, failing to comply may lead HMRC to enquire into other aspects of the company’s compliance.

    It is therefore doubly important that procedures are put in place and observed so that the corporate and tax risk can be managed.

    Jonathan Berger
    Consultant, human resource services, PricewaterhouseCoopers

    Britain’s speed limits are set too low

    You reported that, in the UK, more than one million drivers have nine points on their licence, putting them close to a driving ban (Fleet News, April 5).

    Does that not suggest that most of the country’s speed limits are set too low? Surely, if exceeding the speed limit was so dangerous then the 2.5 million drivers prosecuted annually would result in a corresponding similar number of accidents which, of course, is not the case.

    Terry Hudson
    Association of British Drivers

    Change would be folly

    I SEE that the government is meddling again and this time wants to lengthen MOT test intervals.

    Quite what the reasoning behind this is anyone’s guess. Reducing the frequency of the MOT test, rather than asking the EU to raise their minimum standard, would be a reckless act and another retrograde step from a government obsessed by dumbing down to the lowest level.

    Why should the innocent tax paying motorist suffer such indignity? Research suggests that, if implemented, 50% of vehicles travelling on our roads would fail due to the increased interval. Thus we would all be at higher risk of an accident from drivers who skip maintenance, not to mention increased emissions and overall costs. This does not sit well against the government’s green agenda.

    Alan Basham
    Fleet administrator, Ellenor Foundation

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