Ways in which employers can have a safer fleet

The introduction of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 in April this year has put the issue of driver safety under the spotlight for many organisations. Employers are particularly keen to avoid the penalties that will be imposed on those which do not comply with existing regulations. Where companies acts of gross negligence have led to a death, they will now face prosecution and unlimited fines, which may be based on a percentage of annual turnover.

Other penalties include remedial orders that require a company to take the necessary steps to resolve the management failure that led to the fatality. The courts can also force the organisation to publicise that it has been convicted of the offence, giving details of the type of penalty imposed.

Although HR and fleet managers will have little to fear, they must ensure they meet minimum health and safety standards. Mark Sinclair, director of Alphabet, says: “There are no new requirements under the corporate manslaughter legislation. All you have to do is abide by the existing health and safety regime. As long as you’re compliant with that, you will be covering everything you need to from a corporate manslaughter perspective. Where the Act kicks in is if you don’t have the right policies and procedures in place.”

So fleet managers must remain vigilant when it comes to ensuring safe driving practices. Stewart Whyte, managing director at Fleet Audits, says: “The business needs to be proved to have acted with gross negligence and its management structures must fall well below what is expected [to fall foul of the law]. None of that cuts across the need for fleet operators to set in place good policies that promote active road safety and encourage drivers to drive positively and always insist their drivers drive within the law as drivers first and employees second.”

Employers must also establish whether their employees are insured to drive for business and whether the vehicles are roadworthy. This is particularly important for staff who drive their own cars on work journeys and, therefore, might not be insured for business use or have a full service record.

To help employers mitigate risk, particularly around reducing the likelihood of accidents, there are a number of services on the market. Mileage control devices, for example, can track the number of miles employees travel to identify whether they are covering unreasonably long distances. One provider will even fit a chip into newer models of car which monitors when it starts and stops. As well as recording the distance travelled, this indicates how long an employee has been driving, helping employers to ensure staff do not put themselves at risk from fatigue.

If employers source their fleet through an external leasing company, their provider may also be able to estimate the number of miles an employee is likely to cover before their vehicle’s next service is due. This can help to ensure cars are checked regularly and remain roadworthy.

If an accident occurs, accident management services can help employers deal with the consequences and reduce future risks. They can be used to recover cars from the scene of an accident, pursue insurance claims if the incident was not the employee’s fault, and liaise with an organisation’s leasing company and insurers. Such services can also provide an accident report for each incident, which helps employers to keep a record and identify the most common causes of accidents in their organisation.

But Alastair Kendrick, partner of Bourne Business Consulting, says: “Accident management services don’t [always] produce the evidence people thought they would be able, but they should be able to tell you about an accident. From that data, employers should be able to tell who is always having accidents.”

A driver’s approach to hazards on the road can also be monitored through training and online safety tests.

Employers can also use driver licence checking services to reduce risk by ensure staff are legally entitled to drive in the UK. These typically cost £6-£7 per employee for organisations with more than 1,000 drivers, or £12.50 for individual checks.

With the many services available to minimise risk, Whyte believes it is important for employers to have a clear idea of what action they are legally required to take before they make their choices EBIf you read nothing else, read this…

n The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 means where organisations have been grossly-negligent in their approach to health and safety and this has led to a fatality they will face prosecution and unlimited fines.

n When carrying out risk assessments, employers should pay close attention to grey fleet drivers (who use their own car on business) because they are less likely to have the right insurance and their vehicles are more difficult to service.

n There are various products employers can purchase to help mitigate the risk of accidents, including mileage control services and driver training.