Employer action required to reduce fatal and serious crashes involving at-work drivers

Urgent employer action – including the publishing of fleet safety records – is needed to tackle the stagnation in the number of people killed or injured in collisions involving those who need to drive as part of their work, it is claimed.

Drivers and their employers, Government, the Health and Safety Executive and the police most “do more “to address the fact that there has been virtually no change in the number of fatal and serious injury road crashes on UK roads in the last decade.

That includes the number of collisions involving people driving for business, which has remained static, at one in four of all incidents, over the same period. In 2009 there were 5,442 serious and fatal crashes in Britain involving an at-work driver; in 2018 this had risen to 5,506.

Now road safety charity, IAM RoadSmart, has highlighted its concerns about “a worrying lack of progress in driving down the number of work-related traffic incidents” highlighted in its latest white paper, ‘The Role of Business Drivers’.

The paper also highlights what IAM RoadSmart calls “some alarming practices and attitudes when it comes to employers and their drivers” including:

  • Nearly half of business leaders polled (49%) expect their employees to answer their phone at any time, including while driving for work
  • Just over one in eight employees who drive for work (13%) and more than one in 20 leaders (6%) consider the hard shoulder a safe place to take a work call
  • One in six UK employees who drive for work (17%) say they have been involved in an incident when driving for work due to a phone call from a colleague.

Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, said in the report: “Employers need to do more to drive change across their workforce and to take their responsibilities to keep staff safe, particularly when they’re behind the wheel for business.

“The one thing you’d think businesses would sit up and take notice of is that there is a major bottom line issue. But it is simply going undetected. This is something we must change.”

Fleet Service Great Britain’s (Fleet Service GB) Achieve-branded programme of services includes Achieve Driver Management, a comprehensive online real-time and fully integrated safe driving programme that measures driver performance. It awards points against a wide range of parameters including points on driving licences and number and type of crashes.

Simultaneously, drivers can improve their record through a range of best practice parameters including self-selecting and completing four online ‘how to’ e-learning programmes a year from the many provided by Fleet Service GB such as driving on rural roads, reversing and manoeuvering.

The IAM RoadSmart report also highlights the issue of so-called ‘grey fleet’ drivers – those using privately owned vehicles for work-related journeys – with the sector increasing in size as employees opt out of traditional company cars in favour of cash allowances.

Irrespective of who owns a vehicle, if it is driven on a work-related journey the employer is legally responsible for staff health and safety.

Tony Greenidge, IAM RoadSmart’s business development director, said in the report: “The penny hasn’t dropped for many organisations that their responsibility for a ‘grey fleet’ driver is exactly the same as for a company car driver.

“If companies are expecting their employees to use their own vehicles for work journeys, they must ensure they are doing so safely and with appropriate guidelines, if they are to stay within the law.”

In what would be a “hugely transformative move”, he suggests that “serious consideration” should be given to forcing employers to declare and publish their fleet’s telemetry data to reveal their levels of safety, just as schools must publish SATS result and the NHS publishes surgeons’ performance data.

IAM RoadSmart has followed the likes of the Driving for Better Business campaign – now backed by the Highways Agency and previously supported by the Department for Transport in delivering improvements in work-related road safety – for road safety to be at the heart of procurement practice in UK industry.

It says that if a business cannot demonstrate a strong commitment to legislation compliance with regards to driving for work safety, then they run the increasing risk that they might be disadvantaged when bidding for contracts in both the private and public sector.

Mr Greenidge said: “Employers should be compelled to report on how they have reacted to telematics data, demonstrating that they have addressed patterns of poor driving with training and other driving-for-work policies. The data should be published in firms’ annual reports or as part of their CSR statement.

This would enable those seeking the services of companies with fleets, or company cars, or logistics firms, to choose only the safest businesses. Companies will compete to produce the best safety record – and attract the most lucrative contracts as a result.”

IAM RoadSmart claims responsibility for the “disappointing lack of progress in reducing the number of collisions involving people driving for business” must be shared between employers, drivers, Government, the Health and Safety Executive and the police as well as vehicle manufacturers.

It added that the Corporate Manslaughter Act introduced in 2007 was expected to underpin safer business driving and safer roads objectives – but to date, not a single person had been prosecuted or sent to jail under it in relation to death caused by a company car driver.

Mr Greenidge said: “Where there is clear evidence of poor driving behaviour no employer of a driver involved in an avoidable death while undertaking a business journey has been anywhere near a prosecution. It seems the legislation has proved difficult to apply.”

The IAM RoadSmart report is available at: https://www.dropbox.com/s/jb43aiw83j8l2qk/IAMRS%20Whitepaper%20-%20v4.pdf?dl=0

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