Fleet News contacted dozens of readers and found the vast majority had received calls from salesmen claiming firms would be taken to court or managers imprisoned as a result of the actions of their drivers.
While all of those contacted accepted that duty of care was a vital issue, most felt they were being pressured into buying risk management products.
Julie Jenner, chairman of fleet operators’ association ACFO, said she knew of one fleet manager that had become so fed up of companies trying to sell him duty of care products that he now does nothing.
While this might be an extreme reaction, it suggests that too much hard selling of risk products is making fleet managers’ job harder rather than easier.
Ms Jenner said: “There are certain companies that have been far more proactive about selling duty of care services than perhaps is really warranted.
“We know we have to do something about it. But if you get something rammed down your throat too much, then you switch off.”
Stewart Whyte, managing director of consultancy Fleet Audits, said too much was being made of the issue of duty of care, and feared fleets could get so tired of hearing about it that they could switch off.
“Nobody could possibly condone any business which did not address its responsibility of road safety,” said Mr Whyte.
“But the current preoccupation with duty of care has, in my view, gone over the top and is danger of being counter-productive. It’s crying wolf.
“There’s no evidence that fleets are a major danger on the roads or in serious risk of being involved in an accident, and there’s no substantial exposure to risk of prosecution and major civil claims. It all comes back to rationality.”
Ronnie Wilson, head of leasing at building firm NG Bailey, said it was impossible to over-emphasise the importance of duty of care, but agreed that many suppliers were making too much of it in order to sell products.
“There’s a bit of scaremongering going on from companies trying to sell their products,” he said. “It could be counter-productive, but driver safety can’t be overemphasised.”
Another fleet manager, who asked not to be named, said: “I had a salesman telling me the other day that I could go to jail if I didn’t invest in a risk management product. That’s blatantly untrue, and I told him exactly what I thought of him and his company.”
Claire Costain, facilities manager for Lloyds Register Quality Assurance, said: “I get a lot of junk mail related to this subject and some of the wording is fairly scary.
“An inexperienced fleet manager would definitely be panicked into buying such services and many of us with several years of experience are probably still a bit concerned. I would recommend that people look carefully into their duty-of-care obligations, and not panic buy any products. Take your time, do your research and contact reputable sources of information to get the answers you need.”