driver training for companies

the high price of poor health & safety

driver training for companies

Getting The Correct Driver Training For Your Company Could Be More Important Than You Thought - Much More Important. Steve Walker Reports.

It's a sobering thought for fleet operators. There are drivers out on the roads everyday behind the wheel of vehicles on your fleet and the consequences of their actions could impact directly on to you, resulting in prosecution, fines or even a custodial sentence. It's all linked to corporate manslaughter; two big words that together form an intimidating phrase. It's hardly surprising that people in management positions at companies around the country sit that little bit more uneasily at its very mention. Nobody likes being told that they risk prison if they fail to change the way their company operates but that could be the reality of the situation for many and the worst thing that fleet managers can do is sweep the warnings under the carpet.

So, lets try to slice through the scare mongering and look at the facts of the corporate manslaughter issue and how it relates to the UK fleet industry. First, this is not new legislation dreamt up by the desk jockeys in Whitehall to persecute UK businesses. The Acts of Parliament that legitimise corporate manslaughter prosecutions have been on the statute books for years. What has changed is the commitment of the Police, the Health and Safety Executive and the Crown Prosecution Service to enforce these laws. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 lays out every company's legal duty to secure the safety of employees who drive vehicles as part of their job. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Act 1999 requires all companies to provide adequate health and safety training for employees. The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Act 1998 includes motor vehicles in its definition of 'work equipment'. Combined, these pieces of legislation spell trouble for any company that operates a fleet of vehicles and does not comply with the law.

The changes in the way that these laws are enforced can be traced back to the recommendations of Work-Related Road Safety Task Group published as far back as November 2001. Since then, Police forces have been obliged to inform the HSE whenever they attend the scene of a serious road traffic accident involving a company vehicle and the HSE, in turn, have been far more rigorous in their follow-up investigations. Every company has a duty of care to its employees and, legally, every company must identify a senior person to take ultimate responsibility if the HSE find that this duty of care is not being fulfilled. This is how fatal road accidents involving company vehicles have lead directly to directors and senior management figures receiving custodial sentences. Under health and safety law, management is responsible for the safety of any employee who drives as part of their work and that of anyone else who may be affected by the driver's actions. The maximum sentence for corporate manslaughter is fourteen tears and the more serious offence of corporate killing can result in a life sentence. Potential fines are unlimited.

That is essentially how the land lies but what can companies do to ensure that they are protected against the kind of penalties being talked about here? The most important thing is that they take a lead in acting on the issues raised by the corporate manslaughter situation. Ignorance is no defence and the 'head in the sand' approach may leave you seriously exposed if an accident does occur. Unfortunately, too many UK firms are not taking appropriate action as Michael Rees, Managing Director, of top driver training company, Drive Alive explains: 'Research has found that just 63% or companies are aware of the corporate manslaughter legislation but, going by my experience, I would argue that only a handful of those properly understand how it applies to them. Indeed, other research has indicated that as little as 15% of companies have a coherent risk management strategy in place.'

When dealing with such a complex issue, it makes sense to ask the experts and that means getting proper driver training. Many fleet managers still labour under the misapprehension that this is akin to putting employees through some kind of second driving test but today's top driver training organisations are fully geared-up to provide an all-round service designed to make drivers safer and protect companies against corporate manslaughter prosecutions.

Most will perform a thorough audit of a company's health and safety practices before advising on the appropriate action to bring them in compliance with the current guidelines. Typically, this will entail the maintenance of accurate fleet records covering everything from vehicle mileage, maintenance records and MOT tests, to the licences, insurance details and time behind the wheel of all direct employees and subcontractors working for the company. A fleet manager should be able to know where all the fleet vehicles are at any given time and that the person driving is trained to do so but perhaps more importantly, they should be able to show the HSE that they know. Further to this, an operation like Drive Alive will undertake an on-going process of risk assessment and driver training, targeting the specific needs of employees on an individual basis and working with new staff as they arrive at the company. If the correct systems are in place, the HSE should be satisfied.

The British Police System of Car Control is the foundation for the driver training industry in the UK and training companies have adapted it for civilian use. Drive Alive's Michael Rees explains: 'The British Police System is designed to heighten a driver's powers of concentration, observation and anticipation, changing the way they see the road. All our instructors hold the Police Class One advanced driving certificate as a minimum requirement but we appreciate that new skills are best taught with understanding and humour, because people learn best when enjoying themselves.'

There's no doubt that the corporate manslaughter issue has made driver training significantly more important to fleet managers but even putting that factor to one side, good training still makes a strong case for itself. The kind of driving techniques taught by Drive Alive and their competitors are proven to reduce wear and tear, improve fuel consumption and cut vehicle downtime as well as lessening the number of accidents that a firm's fleet of vehicles are involved in. All these factors together mean that quality driver training can become self-financing. A quick flick through Drive Alive's promotional literature illustrates the point. One client with a 400 truck fleet is quoted as having saved £246,000 per year after driver training put 0.7mpg on the fleet's average fuel consumption. Another, spending £18,000 annually on training, saved £100,000 every year in self-insurance costs after company accident rates were cut dramatically.

Today, the new attitude to enforcing corporate manslaughter legislation means that can you be sure that your company's health and safety practices would stand-up to that kind of scrutiny? If not, help is out there in the shape of the driver training industry. How long can you risk being without it? How long before one of your drivers is involved in an accident?