Fleet special: safety

Twenty people a week are killed in this workplace. It’s not a coal mine, an
oil platform or a construction site ­ it’s the company car.

Up to one third of road accidents involve someone who was driving for work.
In 2005, a total of 54,935 at-work vehicles were involved in crashes ­ 151 each
day. Work-related death or injury not only involves the direct costs of
insurance and compensation, but can jeopardise the future of the business as key
skills and experience are lost.

Employers have a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure
that employees have a safe work environment ­ that applies equally to driving.
This extends to other road users, who must not be put at risk by your staff’s
work-related driving activities.

The good news is that safe driving is also fuel-efficient driving, so taking
actions to promote responsible motoring by employees will have a direct impact
on the bottom line. Benefits of ‘eco-safe’ driving include fewer injuries and
fatalities, reduced sickness absence, smaller vehicle repair bills, reduced
insurance premiums, reduced fuel costs, less wear-and-tear on vehicles and
reduced CO2 emissions.

There are several ‘eco-safe’ tips that companies can pass on to their fleet
drivers. Avoiding harsh acceleration and heavy braking can have a huge impact on
fuel consumption. Pulling away too fast uses up to 60% more fuel. Similarly,
using the gearbox efficiently by changing gear at a more modest engine speed can
cut fuel consumption by up to 15%. Drivers should check tyre pressure regularly;
under-inflated tyres wear out faster and can increase fuel consumption by up to
three per cent.

Nor is there any need to re-invent the wheel: the HSE makes it clear that
‘health and safety law applies on-the-road work activities as to all work
activities and the risks should be effectively managed within a health and
safety system.’ Simple steps can be taken to set up systems to manage
occupational road risk:

Risk assessment

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999) require regular
risk assessment of the risks to employees. Start with those who travel the most
miles, or who are in the highest-risk groups. Young men between 17 and 24 are
involved in one in four accidents despite being just one in six of the drivers
on the road.


Any member of staff using complex machinery would expect to be trained in how to
use it. For most motorists, the last driver training they took was their driving
test ­ but some employers don’t even check that their staff have the correct
licence. Check licences and arrange for refresher training.


If employees are driving their own cars on company business, it’s vital to check
that they are up to the job. Tips on routine maintenance also help. RAC
Foundation research showed that 7% of drivers check tyre pressures and tread
once a year, while 55% of 17-24year olds had no idea what their tyre pressures
ought to be.


Sales teams and reps typically thrive on competition. Employers can turn this to
their advantage by rewarding the team which makes fewest insurance claims in any
one financial reporting period. A no-fault ‘near miss’ reporting system can
encourage staff to learn from others’ mistakes.


The evidence is clear that even using a hands-free phone while driving is
very distracting. Good employers don’t require their employees to make or take
calls while motoring. The Department for Transport says that you are four times
more likely to crash if you are using a phone while driving.

Journey Planning

Inappropriate speed is cited as the main cause in 15% of accidents, while
fatigue causes 350 deaths a year. Employers need to make sure travel schedules
are realistic, so that employees don’t feel under pressure to make up time by
speeding, or to keep driving when they can’t keep their eyes open.


A piece of paper can’t create a safety culture at work but the process of
creating the policy and communicating the risks staff face on the road starts to
get the message across.

Recent RAC Foundation research has shown that company car drivers waste 11
days a year stuck in traffic. It makes good business sense and good safety sense
to try and reduce the amount of business miles travelled through smarter working
such as flexible, remote and mobile working, and working from home.

Sheila Rainger is campaigns manager at RAC Foundation

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