Fleet News

Small fleets champion safe driving at work

Despite what fleet managers may think, size is not important. The benefits of improving the safety of a company’s drivers are the same if a fleet is five or 5,000 vehicles.

Two small fleets have recognised this and have taken major steps to address the risk facing their drivers. In recognition, the pair have just been named business champions by RoadSafe as part of its Driving For Better Business scheme.

Langleys Solicitors, which runs just six company cars and two pool cars, was named a champion after it launched an outreach programme to help other businesses address their road risk.

And Middlesbrough-based RES Teesdale Scaffold, which has a fleet of just 10 vehicles, recently became the smallest of 40 organisations to become a champion.

The two small fleet companies recognised the major benefits of managing at-work driver risk, which range from the obvious – protecting drivers’ wellbeing – through to improved company image, costs savings through reduced insurance premiums and vehicle repair costs and improved efficiency thanks to fewer vehicles off the road and for less time when they are.

Small businesses tend not to have fleet managers and so addressing at-work driver risk may not get the attention it deserves. However, there are 200 road deaths and serious injuries a week resulting from crashes involving at-work drivers. In addition, tougher regulation in the form of the Corporate Manslaughter Act and new Health and Safety penalties mean managing at-work driver risk is essential whatever the size of fleet, or even if a company operates only a grey fleet.

While it has a small fleet of company vehicles, like other companies Langleys relies on employees using their own vehicles for business use. Almost half of its 300 employees drive their own cars on business.

Now Langleys, which specialises in road traffic legislation, has implemented its own comprehensive best practice driving for work policy.

Following an internal review of at-work driving policies and the introduction of fully risk assessed policies and procedures there was a major cultural shift in the business.

“Initially, there was some resistance to the idea that the business had responsibility for people’s driving activities,” said Jeremy Scott, who championed the road safety strategy.

“However the process of explaining how the law was now being enforced, and why Langleys considered activities carried out by individuals driving at work to be their responsibility, resulted in staff realising that we as an employer were taking our duty of care responsibilities seriously and that they were the beneficiaries. Attitudes and perceptions quickly changed.”

The company is now using its knowledge and expertise in its outreach programme to help local businesses manage their work-related road safety.

“There is greater need than ever for businesses to seriously think about issues such as driver fatigue and how it directly affects their employees during both working hours and also on the commute home,” said Scott. “A number of recent and current investigations show that the police and HSE will be jointly investigating accidents with a view to including not only the employee who was driving, but also the employer, in any subsequent prosecution. Company directors and other senior employees could find themselves in the dock facing not only large fines but also a prison sentence following the increase in penalties under the Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008, which has only recently come into force.”

Meanwhile scaffolding company RES Teesdale Scaffolding, which has a fleet of just 10 vehicles, tells its employees to use the same safety standards they use during work when they are driving.

“We have been encouraging our employees to apply the same standards of safety and good practice to all work-related driving activities as they do in their scaffolding activities,” said sales manager Andy Davison.

“All of our vehicles are liveried so we want to be seen as a promoter of good and considerate driving. If there is an incident other road users will soon see that it is one of our vehicles and we want to avoid that.”

The firm’s fleet includes cars, HGVs and vans and drivers collectively clock up around 125,000 miles a year.

“We have a good road safety record and therefore have not seen our insurance costs increase over the last three years, which in a rising market for premiums is excellent,” said Davison.

“However, while the incidents our vehicles are involved in may be minor if we can eliminate them completely that will further contain vehicle repair costs and reduce vehicle downtime. Cutting downtime is important because if our vehicles are off the road they are not working and that means the business is not earning money.”

The company included driving within its all-embracing health and safety focus several years ago. Now, it has just published its Vehicle User Guide (see panel).

It also monitors damage and maintenance through vehicle defect report books, which must be filled in by drivers before each journey.

“We keep a constant watch on the books because these reflect both the attention paid to maintenance by individual drivers and the history of individual driving performance,” said Davison.

“As a consequence there is considerable determination, pride and an element of competition between employees. This ensures that their performance standards remain high and that incidents are minimised.”

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