For most employees, driving on business is the most dangerous task they undertake during their working life, according to official figures. The Driving for Better Business programme aims to build a broad network of employers with ‘business champions’ at the centre.
The government and the police are working together with a raft of other agencies to encourage all companies and organisations to implement best practice occupational road risk management programmes.
It is estimated that between a third and a quarter of all road traffic crashes involve someone who was at work at the time. Based on last year’s data that would be around 800-1,060 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.
Not only are the number of deaths of at-work drivers wholly disproportionate to the total number of workplace fatalities annually, but the number of crashes on the nation’s roads involving car and commercial vehicle drivers in the course of their work is massively out of line when compared with the amount of vehicles on the roads, around 34 million.
Additionally, if it is not bad enough that businesses and organisations are seeing valuable staff killed every day while fulfilling their employment duties, the cost of those crashes to business is prohibitive. British business, it is estimated, is losing up to £2.7 billion a year as a consequence of at-work road traffic accidents and society is paying a further £1 billion.
Costs can be broken down into many areas - some financial, others not quantifiable but nevertheless a cost to business and almost certainly hitting bottom line profits. Industry data suggests that average crash repair costs are around £700-£750 per insurance claim, but the Health and Safety Executive has calculated that for every £1 recoverable, between £8 and £36 may be lost to a company in uninsured costs.
Risk management programme
Therefore, with corporate budgets continually under the microscope a quality risk management programme can significantly reduce fleet operating costs without any impact on the performance of the fleet. Not only that, but companies which put in place a comprehensive risk management strategy inevitably engender a feeling of goodwill among their staff and a notable improvement in overall productivity.
By managing occupational road risk and putting in place a cycle of continuous road safety improvement a company’s fleet efficiency will be improved as vehicle downtime and staff sickness levels will be significantly reduced resulting in a boost to the organisation’s safety image - after all, the company’s drivers are also its ambassadors.
The legal part
However, it is not just the financial and moral arguments that should determine that all companies implement occupational road risk management procedures. Crucially, it is a legal requirement, a fact overlooked by hundreds of thousands of businesses across the country, particularly in the SME sector.
Around 25 acts, directives and protocols impact on at-work driving. These include: The Health and Safety at Work Act, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, the Road Safety Act, the Road Traffic Act, Road Vehicle (Construction and Use) Regulations, the Working Time Directive and, from April this year, the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act.
In short, it is a legal essential for all companies to carry out an assessment of the risks to the health and safety of all employees, while they are at work - and that includes driving. It is also a legal requirement to review risk assessments so they remain ‘live’. Policies and procedures around occupational driving should be a part of all organisations’ health and safety at work standards and should be a board level responsibility.
Making the choice
Essentially businesses have a choice. While accepting that drawing up and implementing an occupational road risk management strategy is not a ‘five minute job’ the benefits are high. It should also not be forgotten that in today’s world of corporate social responsibility that a ‘safe fleet’ is also an environmentally responsible fleet as, for example, a smoother driving style and reduced mileage, equals lower vehicle emissions. Organisations should also understand that there is no ‘get-out clause’ for employees who drive their own vehicles on business. The law is straight-forward: the employer has a duty of care responsibility towards every member of their staff who drives on business irrespective of who owns the vehicle.
In recent years there has been a trend across Britain for companies to opt out of traditional company cars into a variety of cash-for-car schemes in a bid to provide a more flexible remuneration package to staff, save money and reduce administration. However, numerous fleet industry surveys are now highlighting a trend back into company cars, not least because of mounting concerns over difficulties managing health and safety issues surrounding the use of privately-owned vehicles on business.
Ensuring that vehicles are correctly insured for business use, service schedules are maintained, MOTs undertaken and tax discs renewed on time are all concerns that many companies are finding easier to manage if staff drive a company car and not their own vehicle for work purposes. And, businesses should be aware that it is not just criminal actions that may result from a serious at-work road crash, but civil claims for damages against companies are a serious likelihood. Companies that have failed to put in place legal safeguards may find themselves the subject of litigation from injured employees and third parties.
Driving for Better Business Programme
So concerned is the government that thousands of businesses have adopted a laissez-faire attitude to occupational road risk management that they have established two major initiatives designed to encourage companies to take action.
The ‘Driving for Better Business’ programme is focused on companies and is being managed on behalf of the Department for Transport by RoadSafe. Separately, but running alongside the programme, the government has launched a ‘Driving for Work’ campaign, which is aimed at drivers.
The ‘Driving for Better Business’ programme aims to build a broad network of employers with ‘business champions’ at the centre. Drawn from all branches of industry and commerce and operating small and large fleets, these organisations ‘champion’ the cause of at-work driving safety, spreading the message to their peers. Organisations as diverse as BT, Centrica and Tesco.com and Cambridgeshire County Council, Chelmsford Electrical and CGG Veritas, along with others, have been identified as having put in place a series of best practice initiatives to promote the safety of their employees while driving on business as well as other road users.
Through the ‘Driving for Better Business’ programme they will relate their experiences and their success and use their knowledge to encourage other organisations across the business spectrum to implement similar occupational road risk management solutions. By learning at first hand through business meetings, seminars, workshops and conferences from the crème de la crème, it is hoped that more organisations will put in place safe at-work driving policies and reap the financial, legal and moral benefits of taking action.
The ‘Driving for Work’ campaign - being carried out under the Department for Transport’s long-established THINK! banner perhaps best-known for the regular anti-drink driving and belt-up campaigns - kicked-off last year with a campaign focusing on van delivery drivers and a similar campaign targeting company car drivers that will be launched soon. The idea is that the twin-track approach of targeting businesses - directors and fleet decisions-makers - through the ‘Driving for Better Business’ programme and employees through the THINK! ‘Driving for Work’ campaign - both corporate leaders and those behind the wheel will understand that good driving is safe driving.