Gateshead Council has become one of the first public sector organisations to be named a business champion under the Government’s Driving for Better Business programme.
The council runs a fleet of more than 350 vehicles including minibuses, light commercial vehicles and HGVs.
In recent it undertook a review of its entire fleet operation and introduced a range of measures to ensure employees and all other road users are as safe as possible.
This resulted in a crash rate reduction of almost a third in the last three years.
The council policy means all employees must successfully complete a driver assessment before operating a council vehicle.
Drivers are subject to further annual checks and assessment.
The assessment process covers: driver licence checks, eyesight checks, a 45-minute practical driving session and the provision of tips and information on safe driving.
Any driver found to be at fault in a crash or guilty of a road traffic offence must go through the assessment process again.
Drivers new to the council must also complete an extended driving induction.
Results of the driver assessment form part of the information used to risk assess each individual driver.
Accident records are also monitored as well as driving offences/endorsements.
If a driver is regarded to be ‘high risk’, then targeted interventions are implemented including driver training.
A safe-driving initiative, which was introduced in 2006, also demands that all drivers carry out daily checks of vehicles before taking to the road; complete a daily vehicle log with all journeys accounted for and authorised by line managers; and a special safe driving briefing for employee under 24 years old.
Alasdair Tose, transport services manager, said: “A number of factors have led to a near 30% decrease in fleet accidents over the past three years.
"Contributing to this have been our driver assessment/training initiatives, better driver communication and improved vehicle safety features with, for example, all new vehicles fitted with 56mph speed limiters.
“By reducing our accident record we are saving taxpayers money and ensuring that service levels within the authority’s area continually improve as valuable time is not spent on dealing with the aftermath of an incident.”
“Through the processes we have introduced and, crucially, communication with employees to explain the reasons behind the safe-driving programme, we have changed driving culture within the council.”