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Road Safety Minister Applauds Driving for Better Business

8 May 2008

The Transport Minister responsible for Road Safety, Jim Fitzpatrick MP, publically thanked the RoadSafe team, the Driving for Better Business Steering Committee and its Chairman, John Lewis for their work on the programme. Speaking at the Fleet Business Show in London last week he also highlighted the Business Champions' commitment to work related road safety and their successes in doing so. A full copy of his speech is outlined below:

Jim Fitzpatrick MP Speaking at the Fleet Business Show, Wednesday 30th April 2008

It is a pleasure to be here today and thank you for inviting me to talk about Driving for Work.

In recent years the fleet market has changed considerably.

In terms of health and safety, there is also new legislation to take into consideration affecting corporate responsibility.

It is a sad fact nowadays that people are much more likely to get killed driving for work than those who stay in the workplace.

It’s borne out in the statistics. 75% of work-related deaths are out on the road and around a third of all road accidents involve people that are driving for work.

Those accidents mean that about 1,000 deaths a year and many more thousands of serious injuries occur while people are at work.

People who drive for work are often under pressure. They’re incentivised to work longer and harder. Making that extra customer call could make the difference between getting or missing an order.

If a van driver gets behind time on a delivery schedule, their supervisor is going to hear about it - and the mobile phone will start ringing to tell the driver to get a move on.

At the end of the day, pay depends on getting the job done and the bonus depends on doing more than just a day’s work.

It would be un-natural to hope that these pressures do not feed into people’s driving.And it is not easy for employers either - it’s a competitive world out there and no employer is going to tell their employees to take it a little easier.

And those who drive for work see lots of other people driving in the same way as they do - for the same reasons.Working life is a race!

Research we’ve done shows that people who drive for work are over-represented in the accident figures.And, when we talk to them, they admit to the kind of driving that leads to this.

They spend long days behind the wheel. They drive when tired. They admit to becoming stressed or angry - conditions which influence their driving behaviour.They tailgate and they speed.

The car or the van is often seen as an office space. It’s a place for thinking, for organising and communicating. So the at-work driver talks on their mobile, eats and drinks on the move, and thinks about getting to their next appointment on time - rather the road conditions ahead.

Working drivers say it’s the challenges of working life that are to blame for their bad driving.And we all understand why. Time is money.

So how are we trying to help working drivers understand and avoid the risks they take daily?

We see people who drive for work as an at-risk group, but they don’t see themselves as a group at all.Putting out general messages to working drivers may not be the best way to get through.

We’ve focussed instead on the risky behaviour. We’ve done this by running substantial advertising campaigns that focus on speeding, mobile phones and a new campaign this year on driver fatigue.

Our mobile phone advertising campaign message was launched when we raised the penalties to reflect the seriousness of the offence.Those penalties are there because people using their mobile phone are four times as likely to have a crash.

But we have a message for callers too - who might be the boss back in the office.Our message is that ‘you don’t have to be in a car to cause a crash’ - we want people to stop having conversations with people who are driving.

I think the message is getting through.The higher penalties and a hard hitting TV campaign have worked with some high profile court cases.Our surveys have found that the number of drivers observed using a mobile phone has fallen by 30%.

We have followed our campaign about mobile phones with a brand new radio and poster campaign about driver sleepiness.

This is a serious issue which too many of us under-rate.It came as a shock to me that some 20% of casualties on major roads are linked to a tired driver.

It is very likely that somebody will die on the road today because a driver fell asleep.These crashes are often among the worst because a sleeping driver takes no avoidance action.

There has been publicity about sleep disorders - which I take seriously - but the most common cause is that a driver has simply gone too long without enough sleep.Tiredness kills.Drivers must be aware of the symptoms of tiredness.

I am sure these campaigns are making a difference but they need joining up - and that’s the responsibility of employers. Ultimately, they have the task of managing safety in the work place and that includes vehicles driven for work.

So what are we doing to help them?

Managing driving for work is as much common sense as running any other part of a business. Training and planning go a long way to bringing avoidable costs under control.

Responsible firms recognise the duties they have towards their mobile workforce and work very hard to improve the safety of their employees.

Unfortunately there are others who only try half heartedly and some who don’t bother at all.

Many resent the idea of government telling them what to do. Yet the benefits of managing the risks can be very substantial.

So we are funding an outreach programme called Driving for Better Business, which is managed on the Department’s behalf by RoadSafe.

We want to work with business people who have proved these benefits and want to bring the message to their competitors and business leaders.They have a powerful story about the gains on offer… in terms of accidents… in reducing business disruption… and in hard cash.Everybody wins.

Some of these companies have joined the RoadSafe campaign as Driving for Better Business Champions.

Take T-Mobile, who you’ll be hearing from shortly. The company recognised that the 80% accident rate among its 1,500 strong fleet was totally unacceptable. So it introduced a work related road safety strategy. And within 3 years, the accident rate had fallen to 55%.

Another company, Wolseley UK, operates one of the largest fleets in the country.

In one year Wolseley saw over 2,000 collisions with third parties. A cost model revealed that the company needed to generate £124 million worth of sales just to cover the cost of collisions by its drivers.Action was taken.

Even though its fleet size has doubled in the last three years, the number of Wolseley vehicles involved in third party collisions has been reduced by nearly 50% through investment in training.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank John Lewis of the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association for his leadership and support for the Driving for Better Business Champions programme. Thanks to the time and leadership he has given, and to the team at RoadSafe, many businesses are now talking to each other about the benefits of a proper safety regime.

Driving for work encompasses a very broad spectrum of people, so we are not relying on just one channel or even just one message to make the point.

There are currently 3 million vans on the roads today and that number is rising fast, with around 320,000 new registrations each year. Another weapon in our safety armoury comes in the guise of the Act on CO2 campaign.

The Safe and Fuel Efficient Driving programme – SAFED - is an HGV and van driver training scheme which encourages drivers to improve their skills - for example to accelerate and brake more gently.

This not only saves the company money and contributes to a better environment, but encourages safer driving as well.

Van drivers who completed the one-day training course have achieved a 16% reduction in average fuel use on the day.

One beneficiary of SAFED principles has been Centrica/British Gas which has developed a unique web-based driver development programme called 'Be Smart' for 10,000 employees.

Be Smart aims to reduce the risks associated with driving using an e-learning Driver Development initiative.

Not only do drivers understand how to improve their mile per gallon fuel consumption and reduce CO2 emissions, they also drive more safely.

Vehicle incidents over the past 2 years have dropped by almost 1,000, saving the company over £300,000.

If you’d like to know how your company can make these kinds of savings, please take the time to visit the SAFED and RoadSafe stands here today.

The recent changes to corporate manslaughter have brought the legal responsibilities of employers, managers and supervisors for at-work drivers into sharp relief.

With 20 work-related deaths on our roads every week, the legal and moral reasons should be sufficiently compelling for companies to invest in programmes designed to improve the safety of their work drivers.

It takes time to educate and convince a workforce of the value of work-related road safety. But once in place, people do understand and appreciate the investment in their safety.

It is an ethos that needs to be driven from the top down and implemented at every level.

But once it permeates a firm’s culture and when the savings it can deliver are fully recognised, companies become zealous converts.

In doing so, they not only make savings that can be delivered straight to their bottom lines – they also save lives - playing their part in cutting the number of needless tragedies that take place on our roads every day.

Thank you for listening.