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British Library achieves Driving for Better Business champion status

26 May 2010

British library 'books' zero crash statistics to achieve Driving for Better Business champion status.

It is home to 14 million books and 920,000 journal and newspaper titles and runs a vehicle fleet that is driven so safely that there are no official crash statistics.

But, despite that enviable record - which means the Library has become the 45th organisation to become a ‘business champion’ under the Government-backed ‘Driving for Better Business’ campaign, which is managed by RoadSafe - safety initiatives are to the fore. ‘Grey’ fleet policies and procedures are the next to be tightened.

The British Library operates a fleet of three Volkswagen Transporters and a Skoda Fabia Greenline Estate car from its Boston Spa, West Yorkshire premises, travelling some 100,000 miles a year.

The national library for the UK also has two main sites in London - including its flagship location at St Pancras. Nationally, around 75 employees drive their own cars on business - the so-called ‘grey fleet’ - with most journeys being ‘one-off’ trips. Collectively staff travel approximately 25,000 miles a year in their own cars.

The Volkswagen Transporters carry a maximum of one driver and eight passengers and are used for transporting members of staff, visitors and contractors between the Boston Spa site and various destinations within the York, Leeds and Wetherby areas.

The Library purchasing policy means that all vehicles are equipped with ABS brakes, as well as stability and traction controls, with crash ratings under the European New Car Assessment Programme also critical.

And, given that driver fatigue is one of the biggest killers on the UK’s roads - about 300 people are killed each year as a result of drivers falling asleep at the wheel according to Department for Transport statistics - the Library places a significant priority on managing tiredness.

Consequently, some staff are designated ‘as and when’ drivers who are called on to help the driving team particularly during early mornings and late evenings to ensure full-time drivers do not breach the terms of their 36-hour working week with a culture of long hours not tolerated for safety reasons.

The Library driving team at the Boston Spa site consists of two full-time, two part-time and two ‘as and when required’ drivers. In addition another member of staff is available to take to the road when required.

Staff that drive their own vehicles on Library business must complete a declaration that shows they have the correct business insurance in place. However, driving privately owned vehicles on business trips is only permitted if key criteria is met, which includes: there being insufficient public transport and a hire car not deemed appropriate; and it being the most cost-effective and time-saving form of travel for the Library.

Key fleet performance indicators include cost efficiency of the transport and distribution service fleet against equivalent taxi costs and the number of people using the official vehicles, which last year peaked at more than 800 a month.

Since April 2007, the Library’s Transport and Distribution Department has achieved an efficiency rating significantly better than the taxi costs, which has, in effect, generated savings every month. Department running costs, which include vehicle depreciation, fuel purchasing, maintenance costs and insurance for the last 12 months were £82,506.65, compared to the equivalent taxi cost calculated at £115,360.

The Library’s policy and procedures for work-related road safety are laid down in a Fleet Policy and Duty of Care document compiled by transport and distribution manager David Fisher.

Mr Fisher, who has worked for the Library for 20 years and has been in the transport department for four years initially as a driver and for the last 18 months as manager, said: “The British Library places great importance on work-related road safety. By spending time educating and training its drivers the already high standard of their driving has improved even further.

“There has been only one road traffic incident in the last four years and that was a non-blameworthy accident last winter.

“Although the Library only has a small fleet, the safe-driving measures we’ve implemented offer a template for other small transport organisations to follow.

“Health and safety is a key part of working life within The British Library and while there has always been driving policies and procedures in place I have tried to update initiatives to ensure the fleet operates along best practice lines and our drivers and the public are as safe as possible. Introduction of the 2007 Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act was a major focal point for ensuring all aspects of our transport operation are cutting-edge.”

In the last 12 months staff have been undergoing training with the Leeds branch of the Institute of Advanced Motorists with a view to improving their standard of driving.

Mr Fisher said: “This qualification is now a benchmark for the department and anybody who joins the team will either have to be an advanced driver, or be willing to work towards obtaining this qualification.”

Each one of the Library vehicles is checked daily by drivers and undergoes a formal monthly check with any remedial issues identified and dealt with immediately. All Library vehicles also carry first aid kits

A ‘daily journey log book’ is also included in every vehicle in which drivers record details of all trips including: journey distance, time of journey and fuel usage to ensure the Library has an auditable record.

Next on the safety-first agenda for Mr Fisher is to update policies and procedures for employees who drive their own cars on business trips. That will include introducing new measures around driving licence and vehicle documentation checks.

Now with ‘business champion’ status, Mr Fisher wants to spread the at-work driving safety message to other small fleets.

With an estimated up to 200 road deaths and serious injuries a week resulting from crashes involving at work drivers, and more employees are killed and seriously injured on Britain’s roads while driving on behalf of their employer than in any other work-related activity, the ‘business champions’ are used to promote the financial, legal and moral reasons for organisations across the public and private sectors to invest in at-work driving safety.

Mr Fisher said: “There are many organisations close to the British Library transport operation in Yorkshire that run a small number of vehicles. I would like to help them introduce best practice operations and particularly focus on helping them to manage driver fatigue.”

Michael Parish, programme consultant for the ‘Driving for Better Business’ campaign, said: “The British Library may have a very unique fleet, but it has introduced a wide range of safety initiatives which other organisations operating small fleets can identify with and implement very easily with significant benefits.”

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