Fleet special: safety hazards – accident blackspot

It is clear from numerous fleet industry surveys that far too many companies
have adopted a laissez-faire attitude towards staff by opting for cash as a
mechanism of funding a vehicle in place of a traditional company car.

With the government, police and Health and Safety Executive increasingly
focused on taking measures to reduce the number of road crashes involving
at-work drivers, it is crucial that companies have a complete audit trail of all
vehicles driven on business ­ whether corporately or privately owned.

In 2006, the most recent years for which official Department for Transport
figures are available, a total of 3,172 people were killed on Britain’s roads
and 255,232 were injured.

It is estimated that between a third and a quarter of road traffic crashes
involve someone who was at work at the time. Based on last year’s data that
would be around 800 to 1,060 deaths a year, compared to 241 fatal injuries to
workers in the ‘traditional workplace’.

The percentage of occupational drivers injured is also between a third and
quarter of the total figure. Therefore, driving on business, for most employees,
is the most dangerous task they undertake during their working life.

For those companies that have failed to manage safety issues relating to
employees who drive their own cars on business, next month’s implementation of
the long-awaited Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act could be the
catalyst for change.

Industry reports suggest that one million non-company owned vehicles are
driven on business – the so-called ‘grey’ fleet.

But while companies are typically conscientious about ensuring that
corporately-sourced vehicles are serviced, maintained and repaired in accordance
with best practice and insured for business use, they are invariably blind to
the identical responsibilities that impact on privately-owned cars driven on

There are widespread concerns over manufacturer-recommended service intervals
not being met, MoTs not being carried out on schedule, accidents involving
‘grey’ fleet vehicles not being reported and basic maintenance checks not being
carried out, for example, on tyres, lights and fluid levels.

Risk assessments and vehicle and driver audit trails ­ as well as checks that
business insurance is in place ­ are an essential part of company compliance
with legislation, such as the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Management
of Health and Safety at Work Regulations.

The new Act, which comes into effect on April 6, serves to underline the
importance of meeting existing legislation. In terms of work-related road
safety, following a fatal road crash involving an at-work driver, investigating
police officers will be looking for weaknesses in the way the employer monitors,
audits and reviews its policies and procedures in respect of vehicles, drivers
and journeys.

Companies will face a charge of corporate manslaughter (corporate homicide in
Scotland) ‘if death is caused by a gross breach of its duty of care that is
substantially due to senior management failure’.

For corporate decision-makers the ‘bible’ to prove compliance is the Heath
and Safety Executive’s ‘Driving at Work: Managing Work-related Road Safety’ ­
available at

The document says: ‘Health and safety law requires employers and the
self-employed to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health, safety
and welfare of all employees and to safeguard others who may be put at risk from
their work activities. This includes when they are undertaking work-related
driving activities.’

Grey area

As many as one in four vehicles used on business could be at risk of breaking
health and safety rules, amounting to one million cars, according to a ‘grey
fleet’ survey by Arval PHH.

The grey fleet has grown with increasing numbers of employees choosing to
opt-out of company car schemes and from businesses wanting to provide more
flexible benefit packages for employees.

Opt-out vehicles and private vehicles used on company mileage do not
typically fall under the control of company car policies and are a management
and reporting grey area, hence the name ‘grey fleet’.

Report findings:

• 35% of businesses have no policies in place to check employees’ licences

• 53% of businesses do not check that grey fleet vehicles are properly

• 74% of businesses do not ask grey fleet drivers to provide an MOT

• 83% of companies have no system in place to ensure that grey fleet vehicles
are regularly maintained

• 56% have no policy for reporting accidents in non-company vehicles.

• over 73% of businesses set no maximum acceptable age for grey fleet

• only 14% insist that vehicles be less than three years of age and benefit
from the latest health and safety technology

• nearly 80% of businesses do not check if vehicles are suitable for drivers,
potentially leading to increased risk of driving-related injury such as backache
and fatigue

• only 2% of businesses use the Euro NCAP independent safety ratings for grey
fleet vehicles when assessing whether a vehicle is suitable for business use

• 76% of companies do not carry out risk assessments or driver training for
their grey fleet drivers

• less than 5% of businesses place any restriction on the CO2 emission level
of grey fleet vehicles

Source: Arval PHH

Aaron Brown is managing director of
Fleet Technique

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