As a road safety organisation we’re often heard talking about ‘high-risk drivers’ and ‘vulnerable road users’. Depending on who you speak to, these categories tend to be assumed to include such groups as young drivers, elderly drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders. Serious road incidents involving members of these groups tend to draw a great deal of publicity, provoking heated debates over the possible initiatives that could be targeted at improving their safety.
There is another high-risk category that rarely seems to get a mention: business drivers. Many forget that such a category even exists, as it overlaps in some way with most of the aforementioned groups, and includes drivers and riders of various different vehicle types. The statistics, however, speak for themselves. In 2017, of the 1793 deaths that occurred on UK roads, 499 involved a driver or rider on a journey for work purposes (not including the further 210 involving someone commuting). In other words, around 25% of all road deaths involves someone driving as part of their job.
To put this into context, only 144 workplace deaths were reported in the 2017-18 year (RIDDOR). Compliance with a raft of Health and Safety legislation helps keep the number of these kinds of incidents low. Driving, however, seems to suffer from a perceived disconnect from other business operations, and despite work-related road deaths being more than three times higher than ‘on-site’ deaths, employers’ often fail to acknowledge a duty of care towards employees who drive for work.
Fleet managers do have a lot to deal with, and are often tasked with answering the big-budget questions around vehicle sourcing, fuel purchasing strategy and management of maintenance and repair costs. Driver training, risk management and compliance can often end up very low down their list of priorities, or are handed over to other business functions. However, the way these issues are dealt with can have a direct bearing on a business’s fleet costs and drivers’ attitudes towards the use of their vehicles, and a culture of best practice in fleet management is essential to establishing a culture of full compliance and of safer, more efficient driving.
If the numbers are anything to go by, helping at-work drivers to avoid collisions could be key to making a major positive impact on overall road safety, but where to start? The range of professions that involve driving is almost infinitely diverse. It is up to organisations like IAM RoadSmart to identify the aspects of motoring that are of particular concern to those who drive as part of their working lives, create training strategies relevant to these drivers, and find ways to get through to them.
This third element is our reason for taking part in the Great British Fleet Event. The event offered us an ideal opportunity to talk face-to-face with some of the big players in the fleet industry about our training and risk management services, and to give them an insight into the reasons why they should think seriously about the safety of the drivers on their fleets.
Rebecca Ashton, IAM RoadSmart’s Head of Policy and Research, started the day with a thought-provoking presentation about driver distraction. This issue is highly relevant to business drivers. Time pressures, the requirement to remain in phone contact while on the road, and the huge range of in-vehicle technology all provide business drivers with a challenging array of distractions that can seriously impair their ability to concentrate. Raising awareness of this issue amongst those with responsibility for fleets is an important first step in influencing company policies about things like mobile phone use while driving.
Vehicle emissions are high on the agenda for fleet decision-makers, due to a combination of tax implications, and the future strategies that fleets will need to adopt to ensure that their vehicles are efficient, appropriate for their business operations and suitable for enforced low-emission zones, EV charging infrastructure and the like. As part of an Urban Fleet Masterclass session, Tony Greenidge reminded delegates of the thinking behind our constantly-evolving emissions legislation in urban areas: air quality for future generations.
It’s important to remember that modern fuel-efficient vehicles are still capable of contributing to pollution, but that their real-world impact on the environment can be lessened if drivers adopt the optimal driving techniques. Our recent development of an eco-driving course suitable for electric and hybrid vehicles will aim to help business drivers to develop these techniques and reward their fleet managers with reduced costs.
This brings us neatly back to road safety. Driving efficiently involves using greater safety margins on the road, reducing the incidence of collisions. Adopting policies that lessen drivers’ exposure to distractions has the potential to reduce the risk to business drivers, and the risks they pose to other road users. IAM RoadSmart will continue to remind fleets of the part they have to play in making these benefits a reality.
By Gary Bates, IAM RoadSmart Marketing Manager
Photo credits: FleetWorld