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Local union officials stand in way of public sector safe driving focus

9 December 2009

Demand from local authorities for help in managing their at-work drivers is rising but resistance is being met by local trade union officials, according to a leading fleet safety expert.

Fleet Support Group, a supporter of the Driving for Better Business campaign, is currently in discussions with at least five local authorities on using its online occupational road risk management programme RiskMaster. One of the councils is already enrolling its drivers on to the scheme with Permits to Drive and other authorities are expected to do so in the near future.

However, despite the TUC urging all employers to focus on reducing the risks associated with at-work driving and Unison, the UK’s largest public sector union, and the Labour Party already using RiskMaster, FSG Chairman Geoffrey Bray is concerned at opposition to safe driving initiatives from some officials.

Mr Bray said: “I am sitting in meetings with council officers who want to introduce RiskMaster because they want to ensure they are legally compliant and are looking after the health and safety of their staff. However, resistance, in some quarters is coming from local union officials who sit in on the meetings.

“This is a disturbing trend particularly when official TUC guidance very much supports the implementation of safe driving procedures.”

Mr Bray’s comments came in the wake of the Office of Government Commerce, an independent office of HM Treasury, launching a major new campaign aimed at improving the way the public sector manages ‘grey’ fleet use - employee-owned vehicles driven on work-related journeys.

The TUC says that employers should regard vehicles used for work in the same way as any other piece of work equipment.

The organisation advice on its website adds: “Many employers do not see road safety as a health and safety issue. Their main concerns relate to tax, insurance, MoT certificates, and that the driver has the appropriate driving licence. Attitudes like this can lead to higher death and injury rates.

“The TUC believes that work-related road safety must be a higher priority for employers and be integrated into employers’ arrangements for managing health and safety at work. Employers need to control work-related road risks and by doing so could save hundreds of lives every year.

FSG’s concerns that local authorities’ safe driving policies are not as robust as they should be comes at a time when a recent survey by industry publication Fleet News highlighted that public sector bosses were potentially putting the lives of their staff and the general public in danger by failing to manage their ‘grey’ fleet drivers.

The Fleet News research discovered that, of the 30 county councils quizzed not one inspected vehicles driven by 130,000 ‘grey’ fleet drivers and more than 50% of the councils did not check to see whether vehicles had a valid MoT.