For any company with staff who drive for work – whether it’s a fleet of commercial vehicles, company cars, or staff driving their own vehicles to business appointments – ignoring fleet safety can cost dearly. As well as being devastating to those involved, road crashes have massive financial, reputational and legal implications for organisations. For example, in the UK, the cost to employers of at-work road crashes is estimated to be more than £2.7 billion a year . At the same time, Brake has worked with many organisations that have significantly reduced their costs through implementing road risk management policies and procedures. Investing in fleet risk management therefore makes sound financial sense for all organisations with staff who drive for work, particularly small and medium size enterprises with tight budgets and profit margins.
Managing road risk is also a fundamental part of an employer’s legal and moral duty of care towards its employees and members of the public. Driving is the riskiest activity most employees engage in. Road crashes account for 39% of work-related deaths in the European Union .
This guidance is useful for any employer with staff who drive for work purposes, whether you have a fleet of trucks, buses, vans, cars or motorbikes, or staff who drive their own cars to meetings. It outlines simple ways your organisation can protect staff and members of the public and cut spending as a result. It covers how to: measure and benchmark fleet safety; gain senior buy-in; manage and reduce risk to your drivers, vehicles, and journeys; and continually improve fleet safety.
Where to start
Building a business case
Getting support for improving fleet safety at senior level can be a challenge, but it’s crucial to make sure you have buy-in from the top. There are three key areas to highlight when building a business case for fleet safety: saving money; legal compliance; and moral and social responsibility.
Investing in fleet safety can save you much more in the long-run. After a collision, the costs to an organisation can include: increased insurance costs; vehicle downtime; lost productivity; employee sick leave; missed sales; damaged or lost stock; and damage to reputation. The total cost of a fleet insurance claim following a collision has been estimated at up to 36 times higher than just the cost of repairing the vehicle involved . Even minor bumps or scrapes can cost you a lot over time, as well as making your organisation look unprofessional.
Organisations have a duty of care to employees or contractors and members of the public they come into contact with. In some countries, an organisation can be held legally responsible for causing a death or breaching its duty of care through the way in which its activities are managed or organised.
Organisations also have a moral and social responsibility towards their employees, and the wider communities in which they operate. If a member of staff is in a crash while driving for work, it may: harm their physical and emotional wellbeing; lead to lost working time; and affect staff morale. If someone is killed or seriously injured, the devastating effects on families and communities are immeasurable, and the damage to your reputation potentially irreparable.
As part of your business case, you can use case studies of organisations that have achieved great results in fleet safety. You can make use of those compiled by Brake; some are provided in this report and more are available on Brake’s Fleet Safety Awards website (www.fleetsafetyawards.com) and in the members’ area of the Brake Professionals website (www.brakepro.org). Data on your company’s safety record and benchmarking can also provide ammunition in convincing senior management to prioritise fleet safety.
Once you have gained senior management support, maintain and utilise it. Ensure all employees, including senior managers, follow the same fleet safety policies and procedures, such as undertaking licence checks and risk assessments. This will help strengthen fleet safety culture by demonstrating that safety is a priority for everyone.
Writing a road risk policy
If your organisation employs multiple people, you should have a written health and safety policy. In many countries, this is a legal requirement. This should include policy on road risk. This will demonstrate your organisation’s commitment to road safety, and provide a framework for managing and reducing your road risk.
A road risk policy should:
- be produced in consultation with managers, employees, trade unions and external organisations as appropriate;
- include a statement about your company’s commitment to road safety, and an ultimate aim that no deaths or injuries should result from driving on company business;
- cover how you will safely manage your drivers, vehicles and journeys (for example drawing on the advice in this guide);
- use simple, straightforward language and give examples to explain your statements;
- commit to regular (e.g. two-monthly) risk assessments to ensure safety practices are kept up to date;
- set targets for achievement within an allocated time period, for example lower rates of incidents per miles travelled, or lower repair bills and insurance premiums;
- explain the policy will be updated as necessary on a regular basis, through further consultation as needed; and
- be kept as concise and to the point as possible.
You can use this guidance to create your policy. The sample policy extracts in boxes can be tailored to meet the needs of your organisation.
Reporting and recording the extent and causes of incidents involving staff driving for work – including bumps, scrapes and near misses – helps you make informed decisions about the most effective and efficient ways to manage risk.
Drivers need to understand the importance of reporting all incidents, and be aware of reporting procedures. This should be communicated to drivers through inductions, training, and documentation in a driver handbook.
Sample handbook wording:
"Understanding how and why collisions occur helps us ensure our staff and members of the public are safe. That’s why it is essential you report any collisions, scrapes or near-misses you are involved in when driving on company time, whether the vehicle is your own, company-owned or rented. Incidents should be reported within two working days to [relevant manager or department] using the form found at [link/location]."
Drivers should be interviewed following serious incidents to determine: why it occurred; how it could have been avoided; and if the driver requires refresher training, for example on speed awareness or manoeuvring.
Incident reports should be reviewed regularly, for example monthly or quarterly (depending on organisation size and number of incidents), to identify trends and put in place any remedial steps. For example, frequent late-night collisions could indicate driver schedules need to be reviewed to reduce fatigue. Repeat manoeuvring collisions at a particular site could indicate that improvements are needed to signage or site design to reduce the need for risky manoeuvring.
It can be useful to measure your fleet safety record against other fleets of a similar size and type. You can make use of a free 10-question Fleet Safety Gap Analysis provided by Interactive Driving Systems in partnership with Brake (www.fleetsafetybenchmarking.net). On completing the questionnaire, respondents receive feedback on their results alongside anonymous benchmarking data.
Brake also carries out an annual survey of fleets (see a sample survey report), identifying the number of companies that have different fleet safety policies and practices.
Managing your drivers
It is estimated that up to 95% of crashes are down to driver error . It is therefore vital that employees who drive understand the importance of safety and the simple steps they are expected to take to protect themselves and others. This section advises on how to monitor, assess, and communicate safety priorities to drivers.
Communicating with drivers
Effective, regular communication with drivers is essential to get across that safety is paramount. A handbook should be issued to all staff who drive for work when they start. This should explain the importance of driving safely and what’s expected of them when they’re driving on company time. This should include:
- your organisation’s road risk policy (see advice above);
- advice on driving safely covering at least the key topics listed below under driver risks, and all those identified as relevant to your staff;
- what to do after a collision and blank reporting cards; and
- contact details for the relevant manager and any additional emergency contacts.
Driver handbooks should be kept up-to-date, and staff who drive for work required to read them when they start employment and at regular intervals. Road safety messages can also be promoted through your intranet and via bulletins, briefings and other internal communications. They should be reinforced through face-to-face team meetings and briefings. Posters can also be used to communicate road safety messages; you could make use of the free, downloadable posters on Brake’s Road Safety Week global hub (www.roadsafetyweek.org), some of which are available in different languages, or those available in the Brake UK shop (www.brake.org.uk/shop). Electronic versions can be put onto your intranet or desktops, or in your staff bulletin, alongside comments and articles on different road safety topics, linking these messages to your road risk policy.
Driver assessment and training
New employees’ driving standards should be assessed on recruitment. This should include: a brief test of their knowledge of road rules; assessment of their attitudes to safe driving, either through a standard interview or through psychometric testing; checking their driver’s licence is clean; and checking for health conditions that could affect their driving, such as sleep apnoea or visual impairments. Relevant practical skills assessments, such as manoeuvring skills for drivers of larger vehicles, can also be included at this stage or during a probationary period of employment.
Assessments should be repeated for all drivers on a regular basis, to keep drivers’ knowledge and skills up to date and identify needs for further training. Drivers should also be reassessed if they: have been involved in a crash; are reassigned to duties involving a different type of driving/vehicle; or are returning from a career break or lengthy sick leave. Drivers who fail assessments should be taken off driving duty immediately, and either referred to relevant services (e.g. to an optician for eyesight assessment and new glasses if needed) or given targeted training to bring them up to the required standard.
New drivers should be given training as part of their induction, and additional training should be provided to drivers who fall below the required standard, and to drivers assessed as medium or high risk (for example, those with high annual mileage or previous crash involvement). Monitoring drivers and analysing crash statistics will identify which drivers need additional training and how this should be targeted. Training should focus on defensive driving and safe attitudes. Skid training is not advised: there is evidence that this type of training makes drivers over-confident and increases their crash risk .
Organisations who do not have internal expertise on safe driving training should consider using external organisations to run assessments and training, to ensure it is of a high standard. External organisations can also often complete routine checks such as driver licence checks. Some providers are listed in Brake’s fleet service directory on www.brakepro.org.
New employees must be made aware of expectations on them to drive safely. This should be written into their employment contract and your disciplinary policy. Drivers must notify their line manager immediately of any driving convictions, and your organisation should carry out regular checks of all drivers’ licences.
Suggested wording for a new driver employment contract:
"Staff driving on company business must follow all applicable legislation. [The organisation] will not pay fines for driving or parking offences. If driving is essential to an employees’ job and contravention of the law results in a driver losing the right to drive, or if they are otherwise prosecuted for a driving offence that did or could have caused serious harm, employment can be terminated.
Drivers will be subject to testing to ensure they meet the legal standards for driving, including eyesight spot checks and alcohol and drugs testing. Tests will be conducted [frequency, e.g. annually, monthly, or at random]. Failure of an alcohol or drugs test will be considered gross misconduct and will be managed in accordance with [organisation’s] disciplinary policy."
Case study: Unitrans Botswana’s fleet safety strategy
Unitrans is a logistics company operating across Sub-Saharan Africa. In Botswana their drivers cover 1.7 million km a year in more than 200 heavy goods vehicles. They have developed a comprehensive fleet safety strategy to reduce road crashes and the associated costs to the business, and to improve efficiency.
All of their drivers go through an in-house training academy which teaches safe behaviours to protect themselves and other road users. Every vehicle is equipped with a ‘Drive Cam’ to allow managers to monitor safety performance, and to identify and address unsafe behaviour.
Weekly ‘toolbox talks’ (practical talks on-site) are a chance for drivers and managers to: discuss road safety topics; analyse recent incidents and near-misses; and review road safety policies. These regular sessions reinforce to staff the importance of road safety and help to engrain a safe driving culture.
Other initiatives include: a zero-tolerance drugs and alcohol policy enforced by regular breathalyser tests of driving staff; a ban on mobile phone use when driving; and a ‘fitness for work’ programme ensuring their drivers’ health is always at the standard required for safe driving.
Driver monitoring and telematics
Driver behaviour should be monitored through consistent and robust incident reporting procedures, as above, as well as spot-checks wherever possible. Managers can spot-check driver performance by setting aside time occasionally to join drivers on the road and observe their driving. This can help identify other potential issues or improvements that your organisation can benefit from making. Other measures like a ’how’s my driving’ sticker on vehicles, with a number to report poor driving, can also help deter risky driving and identify problems.
Many employers find it beneficial to introduce in-vehicle telematics to monitor driver behaviour, alongside driver assessment and engagement. Telematics can record harsh braking, sharp cornering or speeding and can reduce safety-related incidents by up to 50% . Although installing telematics does involve an initial investment, many organisations report recouping the initial outlay within a year through safety-related cost savings .
Key driver risks
Driver communications and policies should cover the main risks drivers face and pose to others. This section outlines some of the key risks, and how they can be addressed. Research on these topics and more is available through Brake’s Road Safety Library (www.brakepro.org/research).
A useful tool for promoting safe driving is Brake’s Pledge. This is a six-point plan all drivers can follow on the most important safety points, such as slowing down and not using a phone while driving. Brake runs regular free webinars to teach you how to run workshops and coaching sessions for groups of drivers about the Pledge. Webinar attendees are given access to online Pledge tools to help them engage drivers. See www.brakepro.org/pledge. The information below outlines ways employers can ensure their drivers stick to the six points of the Pledge: slow, sober, secure, silent, sharp, sustainable.
Brake’s Pledge for drivers: I'll stay under limits, and slow down to 20mph (32 km/h) around schools, homes and shops to protect others. I'll slow right down for bends, brows and bad weather, and avoid overtaking
The faster we drive, the less time we have to react, the harder the impact will be in a collision, and the more likely to result in death or serious injury . This means that speed is a factor in all crashes, so it is vital drivers understand the dangers both of speeding and driving too fast for conditions.
A speed policy should require employees to never exceed the speed limit. They should also slow right down (often well below the legal limit) in built-up areas; for bends and brows on rural roads; and whenever there is limited visibility or the road is wet or icy. It should also specifically state that drivers should slow down to 20mph (32km/h) around homes, shops and schools to protect people on foot and bike.
Work practices should not encourage or incentivise excessive and inappropriate speeds. Drivers should be given realistic schedules and delivery time targets, or instructed to allow plenty of time between appointments if they set their own schedules, allowing for driving well within speed limits and possible hold-ups. It must be made clear to drivers that safety is always the priority, and to phone ahead as needed (when safely parked) if running behind rather than driving faster to make up lost time.
Brake’s Pledge for drivers: I'll never drive after drinking any alcohol or drugs – not a drop, not a drag.
Drink- and drug-driving is one of the biggest killers on roads in many countries. Alcohol significantly increases crash risk, even in very small quantities . Illegal drugs and some medicines also impair driving, for example by slowing reaction times, affecting coordination, or encouraging risky behaviour.
It is crucial drivers are educated on the risks of alcohol and drug use, including from drinking very small quantities of alcohol, and from morning-after-drink-driving where alcohol remains in your system the morning after drinking.
Many organisations screen for alcohol and drug use among employees. The importance of this should be communicated to employees to encourage cooperation, and the precise nature of testing needs to be written into contracts.
Employees should also be instructed to report to a manager in confidence if they:
- are taking medication that may impair driving;
- believe a colleague is under the influence of alcohol or drugs at work; or
- believe they have a substance misuse problem
Suggested wording for a drug and alcohol policy:
"The use of any motor vehicle on company business while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is strictly prohibited. It is the responsibility of the driver to ensure they do not drive with any alcohol in their body, and that any medicine taken, including prescription drugs, will not impair his/her ability to operate the vehicle safely. If there is a question concerning any prescription drug and the operation of a vehicle while taking that drug, contact [relevant department or manager] for guidance".
Brake’s Pledge for drivers: I'll make sure everyone in my vehicle is belted up on every journey, and children smaller than 150cm are in a proper child restraint.
Drivers should be instructed to comply with the law by always wearing a seat belt while driving, and to belt up before they set off, even on very short journeys. They should also be instructed to position their head restraint correctly (right up against the back of their head, with the top about level with the top of their head) to avoid whiplash in a collision, to ensure any passengers wear seat belts, and to check vehicles are loaded correctly and not overweight.
Drivers who carry child passengers, such as taxi or minibus drivers, should be aware of the requirements for child restraints and booster seats and should ensure the necessary seats are available to customers as needed. Brake and experts recommend children under 150cm tall are restrained in a child or booster seat appropriate to their size and weight and correctly fitted to the vehicle.
Brake’s Pledge for drivers: I'll never take or make calls or texts when driving. I'll turn off my phone or put it out of sight and on silent, and stay focused on the road.
Distraction while driving is a deadly and common risk. For example, it is estimated to account for 78% of crashes and 65% of near-misses in the USA . At-work drivers are particularly at risk of being distracted: Brake studies of UK at-work drivers show they are more likely to use a mobile phone and more likely to succumb to stress .
As well as complying with any legislation banning hand-held mobile phones, a robust distraction policy should also prohibit hands-free mobile phones, which are proven to be just as dangerous . Drivers must be supported to abide by these policies, for example allowing adequate time on journeys to take breaks to check messages and return calls, and by all staff being instructed to end calls immediately if someone picks up while driving. Drivers should be advised to set a standard voicemail message to let callers know they cannot answer the phone when driving, but will return the call when safe to do so.
Mobile phones are not the only distraction drivers may face: eating, smoking, or adjusting a sat nav or radio can all cause fatal distractions. Prohibiting drivers from specific risks such as eating or smoking while driving can help to send a clear message that the only thing drivers should be doing behind the wheel is driving. Policies need to be communicated on employment and at regular intervals, and can be enforced by spot-checking vehicles (for example, for cigarette ash or food debris), and taking action on drivers who violate policies in line with the organisation’s disciplinary policy.
Distractions cause tragedy
In December 2011, Jade Beale from Tokoroa, New Zealand, was travelling home from Christmas shopping with her sister Renee and friend Arianna when a car travelling in the opposite direction crossed the central line and hit them. The driver of this car, who died in hospital from her injuries, was texting at the wheel. Jade, who was in the back passenger seat, had to be cut out of the car. She had broken ribs, sternum and collar bone. She punctured her lung and suffered injuries to her internal organs, requiring extensive surgery.
Jade said: “Using your phone at the wheel is really dangerous. Taking your eyes off the road for even a second could have devastating consequences. Don’t risk fate. Put your phone off, or on silent, and out of reach”.
Suggested wording for a distractions policy:
"Employees’ welfare and safety is paramount to [organisation]. Therefore employees must not make or receive calls, or use or adjust mobiles or other devices (aside from pre-programmed sat-navs) in any way while driving, such as to send or read texts or emails.
[The organisation] will not authorise the purchase and installation of hands-free car kits. Employees should leave their phone on silent and out of reach while driving, ideally in the boot if there is one. A voicemail message should be set to explain to callers that the driver will not answer calls when driving.
Mobile phones may only be used by drivers when their vehicle is parked in a safe place off the road and handbrake applied. The engine must be switched off if you wish to make or receive a call while holding the phone.
Suggested wording for a voicemail message: “Hello, you have reached [name] from [organisation]. I may be driving and therefore unable to answer the phone. Please leave a message and I will call you back as soon as I am free and it is safe to do so. If you need an immediate response, please call [alternative designated number].”
If a non-driving employee becomes aware that someone they have phoned is driving, they must calmly and politely end the call immediately, asking their contact to call back once they are safely parked.
When behind the wheel, drivers are expected to give their full attention to the road. The use of sat navs is permitted but these must be programmed before setting off. Any adjustments to the sat nav should only be made when you are safely parked with the handbrake applied. Drivers must not engage in any other activities while driving, such as eating, brushing hair, changing CDs, or any other activity likely to draw your attention away from the task at hand."
Brake’s Pledge for drivers: I'll get my eyes tested every two years and wear glasses or lenses while driving if I need them. I'll take regular breaks and never drive if I'm tired, stressed or on medication that affects driving.
Having good eyesight is fundamental to safe driving, but drivers don’t always realise if they have a problem. It is possible to lose up to 40% of your vision before noticing it . Experts recommend drivers have their eyes tested at least every two years , or straight away if they notice a problem.
Organisations should require new drivers to have a professional vision test when they join, or produce evidence of a recent vision test. It should then be ensured that all drivers have their eyes tested every two years, ideally funded by your organisation as part of an employee wellbeing package, and that drivers are required to report any concerns about their eyesight to their manager immediately. Managers can also conduct eyesight spot-checks in the workplace by asking drivers to read a licence plate from a distance of 20 metres, although this should not be seen as an alternative to professional vision tests.
Tiredness while driving can have tragic consequences. For example, in the UK at least 300 people are killed each year as a result of drivers falling asleep while driving . Drivers need to be educated on the risks of driving tired, and instructed to take a 15-minute break at least every two hours and to stop as soon as they can pull over somewhere safe to rest if they feel sleepy. It’s important to make clear to drivers they will not be disciplined for running late if they need to take a break due to tiredness.
Some medical conditions, such as sleep apnoea, can make drivers more susceptible to sleepiness, but can be treated. If a driver has trouble staying awake, they should be taken off driving duties immediately and referred for diagnosis and treatment.
In April 2008, Mark, 32, was just ten minutes away from home, driving back late at night. The driver behind Mark witnessed him drive steadily for around a mile, before drifting across the road into the path of a 40 tonne vehicle. Mark died instantly. The coroner later determined that Mark had fallen asleep while driving. Barry Love, Mark’s stepfather, said: "I have driven a lot for work so was aware of the effect that tiredness can have when driving, but Mark's death really brought this home. It is awful to think that something so easily avoidable took Mark away from us, and caused such pain and devastation to our family. The issue of driver fatigue needs far more public awareness, as tiredness can come on very quickly."
Research has linked stress with risky driving and increased crash rates . Identifying and addressing stress can reduce risks as well as improving morale. To identify and tackle stress, fleet managers should:
- require staff who drive to notify their manager, in confidence, of any work or home problems causing them stress;
- regularly review workloads to ensure drivers are not under undue pressure; and
- refer employees to support and professional counselling if necessary.
See Brake’s advice for drivers on your health, fatigue and sleep apnoea.
Brake’s Pledge for drivers: I'll minimise the amount I drive, or not drive at all. I'll get about by walking, cycling or public transport as much as I can, for road safety, the environment and my health.
Driving less can save you money in fuel bills, as well as being better for safety, health and the environment. It can benefit productivity to encourage or require staff to use video conferencing instead of travelling to meetings, and to use trains or buses when possible rather than driving to events and meetings. For more on how sustainable journey planning can help your business, see ‘Managing your journeys’ below.
Managing your vehicles
Inadequate vehicle maintenance can cost lives. For example in Britain in 2013, 2,000 crashes were caused by vehicle defects, 42 of them causing deaths . Employers must ensure vehicles driven for work – whether company or employee-owned – are well maintained, particularly safety-critical components such as brakes and tyres. This is to protect drivers and members of the public and avoid costly insurance claims and repair bills.
Maintenance and servicing
Vehicle servicing and repairs should be carried out by qualified mechanics, preferably accredited by a national industry scheme if your country has one. Mechanics employed in-house should provide evidence of qualifications on recruitment, and should be monitored and assessed regularly to ensure their skills are kept up-to-date, with training provided as appropriate.
If your organisation outsources vehicle maintenance you should insist on minimum qualification standards, qualification checks and regular training for mechanics working on your vehicles. This should be written into contracts.
For further guidance, see the following publications are produced for a UK market, but contain valuable advice relevant to companies in other countries:
• Guide to maintaining roadworthiness (for commercial and passenger-carrying vehicles), Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA – formerly VOSA), 2009
• Your van: best practice guide (for light goods vehicles), DVSA, 2013
• The Society of Engineers (SOE) produces several best practice guides, available by registering for free on their website, including on maintenance supplier assessments, roadworthiness, and wheel security.
Drivers have the most contact with your vehicles, so can be the first to spot defects. Drivers should be trained and required to carry out simple pre-drive ‘walk-around’ checks before the first journey of each day (which need only take a few minutes) and look out for warning signs.
Sample vehicle check and maintenance forms are available to download from the Brake Professional website (www.brakepro.org): checklist for vans, checklist for trucks, quick-reference guide for car maintenance, and risk assessment for winter driving.
Managers can ensure these checks are carried out by drivers by requiring drivers to confirm completion by completing an electronic check list and sending a standard notification or signing a record sheet, and by conducting spot checks.
Drivers should be required to report any defect, however minor, and defects should be assessed by a manager or qualified technician. If a safety-critical defect is reported, the vehicle must be taken off the road for repairs immediately. Drivers should be clear that they must not get behind the wheel if they do not think a vehicle is safe, and will not be penalised for refusing to take out an unsafe vehicle, even if this disrupts business. It is better to delay a journey than risk lives.
Vehicle checks are essential
In February 2011, Tom McCann, 20, was driving his friends home when a woman driving in the opposite direction lost a wheel from her car. Her car swerved into Tom’s, killing Tom and injuring his two passengers. The driver had had an old spare tyre fitted due to a puncture about six months before the crash. She’d had the car checked by a local garage only a few days before the crash, due to a knocking sound, but the source was not discovered. Expert evidence from crash investigators later found the wheel was rusty, so it did not correctly sit in the hub, and in their view this had caused the wheel nuts to loosen over time.
Blind spots and manoeuvring
All vehicles have blind spots – areas the driver cannot see by looking through the windows or using standard mirrors. The larger the vehicle, the larger the blind spots. Blind spots pose a particular danger to pedestrians and cyclists. 30% of cyclist deaths in London are caused by trucks turning left when the driver is unaware of a cyclist in their blind spot .
Blind spots can cause a major risk while manoeuvring, particularly while reversing, changing lanes or overtaking and turning at junctions. Devices including blind spot mirrors, cameras, reversing alarms, and under-run guards can all help to reduce blind spot risks. It is essential you fit all devices legally required for your vehicles, such as wide-angle mirrors and under-run guards required within the European Union for heavy goods vehicles. However, it is likely you will be able to improve safety further by going above and beyond legal requirements and fitting the latest available technologies, particularly if you run a fleet of commercial vehicles that commonly are driven in built-up areas and need to be manoeuvred, such as on work sites. It is therefore important to research which devices are evidenced to be beneficial for the type of vehicles and journeys you manage, consulting suppliers as needed.
For further guidance, see Transport for London’s voluntary standard for the construction industry, Standard for construction logistics: Managing work related road risk.
Case study: Gateshead Council’s safe vehicle practices
Gateshead Council is a local government body in the UK. It operates a mixed fleet of 330 vehicles. The Council requires drivers to: undertake daily vehicle checks; monitor miles per gallon performance; and maintain internal and external cleanliness of the vehicle. Random spot-checks are used to ensure drivers have completed their vehicle checks before setting off.
Individual training plans have been developed for all employees who drive, including a five-day heavy goods vehicle inspection course, and Safe and Fuel Efficient Driving (SAFED) training. Driver trainers carry out toolbox talks on-site, covering best practice in walk-round checks and defect reporting.
All in-house vehicle technicians must complete inspection procedure courses for heavy goods vehicles, accredited by the UK government’s Drivers and Vehicles Standards Agency. Any vehicles that have been sent to contractors for maintenance are inspected in-house before they are allowed back on the road.
Other initiatives include: speed limiters set to 56mph (90km/h) are fitted to the entire fleet; driver behaviour is monitored through telematics; and regular safety training is provided to all employees, using Brake’s videos of people bereaved through road crashes.
Gateshead Council’s incident rate has dropped from almost 350 in 2004/05 to 150 in 2011/12. The Council has reduced its total fleet carbon emissions by 890 tonnes since 2008, and provided driver training to more than 1,500 people since 2004.
Managing your journeys
Journeys should be planned carefully to minimise mileage and ensure realistic scheduling. Unnecessary journeys should be eliminated, and essential trips planned to minimise risks and deliver efficiencies.
Safe journey planning
More than 330,000 pedestrians and cyclists lose their lives on the road globally each year . Reducing traffic where people walk and cycle is one of the best ways to prevent needless casualties. You should therefore plan routes to avoid residential areas, town centres and schools wherever possible. If drivers must pass through these areas they should slow right down, to 20mph (32km/h), even where the speed limit is higher.
Realistic, safety-orientated journey planning helps avoid fatigue and pressures to drive faster. Journeys should be planned with enough time so drivers do not need to drive at excessive or inappropriate speeds and can take rest breaks at least every two hours. Where vehicles are fitted with tachographs, these must be regularly analysed to ensure drivers take required breaks and do not exceed maximum driving hours.
Drivers should also be instructed that if they are delayed they should stop and phone ahead, and rearrange or cancel appointments if needed, rather than driving faster, and if they become tired they should stop and rest rather than pressing on. (See further advice above on speed and tiredness.)
Sustainable travel planning
The best way to reduce road risk is to reduce overall distance travelled. This is not only beneficial to safety, but will also save money and reduce emissions.
Conference calls, teleconferencing and home working can eliminate the need for many business trips. Where journeys are necessary, employees should be encouraged to use public transport, walk or cycle wherever possible. If it is necessary to drive, employees should be encouraged to vehicle-share if possible, and combine multiple trips to the same place to avoid repeated journeys.
Where frequent road travel is unavoidable, for example for delivery and logistics companies, journeys should be planned to use the safest, most efficient routes possible. Route planning software is available from various providers, such as those listed in Brake’s fleet service directory, to help plan efficient routes and realistic times.
Suggested wording for a journey planning policy:
"Driving excessive hours can be highly dangerous and no employee should do this. Where possible, meetings should be conducted via teleconference to avoid the need for travel. If a face-to-face meeting or appointment is necessary, journeys should be conducted via public transport wherever possible: this is a safer, more environmentally-friendly alternative, and will allow you to work on your journey and hopefully make the trip less tiring and stressful.
Meetings should be planned and scheduled to avoid the need for long continuous journeys as much as possible. Where longer trips by road are essential, an overnight stay at an economy hotel should be made instead of a lengthy journey at the start and end of the day. Arranging visits to distant customers so that some meetings take place during the afternoon of Day 1 and others during the morning of Day 2, for example, could represent a good use of time and allow you to travel while you are fresh and alert. All driving journeys should be planned to allow time for staying well within speed limits, possible hold-ups, and breaks of at least a 15 minutes every two hours.
Journeys should be planned to avoid driving through residential and town centre areas wherever possible. If you are passing through these areas, you should slow down to 20mph or below to protect people on foot and bicycle and allow enough time to stop safely in case of emergency."
Effective collision reporting and regular review of this data can demonstrate the impact your fleet safety work is having and highlight areas for improvement. Annual employee surveys can also be used to measure changing attitudes to safety and assess whether the organisation’s road safety culture extends to all employees.
Fleet safety policies should be continually reviewed in light of this information and to keep in line with best practice and emerging developments. Becoming a member of Brake Professional can help you stay up to date with best practice, and access tools and advice to help them continually develop their road risk management, through professional development webinars and events and provision of guidance reports and driver awareness resources. See the box below for further details of Brake’s tools for your business.
Corporate social responsibility and PR benefits
Fleet safety achievements should be communicated to your board and workforce, to boost morale and demonstrate the benefits of fleet safety. They can also be used to share best practice and generate positive PR, for example through Brake’s annual Fleet Safety Awards.
Embedding road safety within the organisation’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme can also benefit reputation. For example, organisations taking part in or organising a Road Safety Week benefit from positive coverage which can help in demonstrating a commitment to safety and social responsibility; this is frequently a requirement in bidding for contract work. See Brake’s guidance for companies on running a Road Safety Week.
Employee drivers are often highly visible in local communities, recognisable by their uniforms or liveried vehicles. If the organisation’s drivers are seen to be taking care, the organisation will gain a local reputation for responsibility.
More Brake advice and resources
If you’ve found this guidance useful, consider becoming a member of Brake Professional for access to many more guidance reports and educational tools. Reports are available on topics including: developing a safety culture; in-vehicle technology; managing speed; driver distractions; stress, tiredness and sleep apnoea; eyesight; drink and drug driving; vehicle maintenance; and journey planning and sustainable travel.
Members also benefit from free and discounted attendance at Brake’s seminars, webinars and conferences on road safety and at-work road risk management. Events are open to subscribers and non-subscribers to attend: to view upcoming events, visit brakepro.org/events.
Membership is free to professionals based in countries on the UN’s list of least developed countries, or for a small annual fee to others. For more information, and to join, visit brakepro.org/join.
For guidance and resources on running a Road Safety Week, or similar awareness-raising initiative, go to www.roadsafetyweek.org, Brake’s global resource hub for event organisers.
The sample policies quoted from and linked to throughout this document are adapted from real, working policies used by Brake subscribers. Brake would like to thank the following organisations for kindly sharing their policies and documentation: 3M, ExxonMobil, Iron Mountain, LBS Builders Merchants, and Travis Perkins.
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 Work related traumatic injury fatalities, Australia 2009-2010, Safe Work Australia, 2012
 The costs of accidents at work, Health and Safety Executive, 1993
 Dimensions of aberrant driver behaviour, Uppsala University, Sweden, 1998
 Training drivers to have the insight to avoid emergency situations, not the skills to overcome emergency situations, International Road Federation (2014) [online]. Available at http://www.irfnews.org/wp-content/uploads/IRF-DBET-SC-Endorsement-Driver-Training-11-07-2013.pdf
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 See for example ‘Iron Mountain: the drivers’ view’ in Telematics as a fleet safety tool, Brake, 2014 [online]. Available at: http://www.brakepro.org/subscribers/subscribers-area/vehicle-technology-and-maintenance
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