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Safety-focused commercial vehicle fleets in the vanguard of cutting road crash casualties

13 April 2010

Almost 50 public and private sector fleets, including many of the UK’s leading commercial vehicle operators, are in the vanguard of a Government-backed drive to reduce the number of road crashes involving at-work drivers.

Although, official Department for Transport figures show a consistent reduction in road crash casualties - a total of 2,538 people were killed on Britain’s roads and 228,367 people were injured in 2008, the most recent year for which data is available - it is estimated that up to a third of those casualties could be employees on work-related journeys.

At the heart of the Government’s bid to reduce work-related road crashes and casualties is the ‘Driving for Better Business’ campaign,managedby RoadSafe.

Central to the success of the campaign is the recruitment so far of 42 high-profile safety-focused ‘business champion’ fleets from across the public and private sectors to showcase their own good practice, with the aim of encouraging other organisations to adopt sound safe driving management policies.

Commercial vehicle fleet operators among the ‘business champions’ include: Arval UK, Atkins, Balfour Beatty Plant and Fleet Services, Bethell Group, BT, Cambridgeshire County Council, CE Electric UK, Central Auto Supplies, Centrica, Chamberlain Doors, Chelmsford Electrical, City of York Council, Gateshead Council, General Motors UK, Gloucestershire County Council, Greene King, Hannaford, Kaba Doors, Kier Harlow, LeasePlan UK, London Borough of Hackney Council, M&G Vehicle Hire, nkl Automotive, Northgate, RES Teesdale Scaffold, Scottish and Southern Energy, Tesco.com, TNT Express, United Utilities Operational Services, and Wolseley.

Caroline Scurr, director of the ‘Driving for Better Business’ campaign, said: “Our ‘business champions’ can prove that reducing the number of crashes involving at work drivers saves thousands and, in the case of large fleets, millions of pounds. In addition, cutting the carnage improves business efficiency and the image of an organisation.”

“All of our ‘business champions’ have cut crashes and related costs significantly through implementing a wide variety of safety-focused initiatives, and, consequently, employee well-being has also been improved. The result is complete legal compliance and a measurable contribution to business efficiency with savings that go straight to the bottom line.

“The ‘business champions’ are real world testimony to the ability to significantly impact costs and reduce on-road incidents and risk exposure generally by putting in place a range of interventions.

“The business and employee advantages of managing occupational road safety effectively and efficiently are there for all to see. We will continue to drive home those benefits with public and private sector organisations across Britain as we continue to recruit more ‘business champions’.”

Tesco.com is the world’s biggest online retailer and operates an expanding fleet of 2,200 vehicles delivering goods to online customers across Britain, and employs 8,000 drivers.

Occupational road risk manager Andy Kemp said: “We are at the forefront of pro-actively managing occupational road safety and have introduced many initiatives that collectively have delivered financial saving running into millions of pounds including significantly reduced accident rates and major fuel savings.

“The whole programme is a win-win-win for the business, our drivers and our customers. The company is cutting costs; our drivers feel appreciated and valued and most of our customers receive their deliveries on schedule.”

But it is not just major fleets that are focusing on occupational road risk management. Chelmsford Electrical, which operates a fleet that includes almost 40 light commercial vehicles, has dispelled often repeated claims from SMEs that they cannot afford to invest in an on-road safety programme either financially or in terms of taking staff away from their job for driver training.

Company secretary Peter Locke said: “We didn’t think that we could afford that either, but it had got to the stage where we had no choice. Now we are reaping the benefits.”

The business introduced a driver awareness programme in the wake of a deteriorating claims record on the advice of its insurer.

Mr Locke said: “The spin-off effects of our programme have been numerous. We have benefited from improved business efficiency, greater productivity and reduced administration.

“We believe we now have a good road safety record and that is helping the company to compete. Like all businesses we need our vehicles to be on-the-road working. Road crashes cost money and time.

“I cannot see any reason why any business would not make the investment that we have done. We were sceptical, but the results prove the case for a risk management programme.”

And Ross Clarkson, marketing director of ‘business champion’ company Northgate Vehicle Hire, Britain’s largest rental organisation with a predominantly all van fleet of 61,000 vehicles, said: “A safety-first focus is paramount if cost-focused fleet operators are going to deliver financial savings.

“Our customers operate among the very latest vehicles available which are equipped with the newest cutting-edge safety features, such as ABS brakes and electronic stability control, which help prevent road crashes. We also offer customers best practice advice and a Vehicle Monitoring telematics services to help them cut costs and comply with occupational road risk management legislation.

“All organisations should consider engaging with the ‘Driving for Better Business’ campaign because at-work driving safety measures taken by one organisation may stop another firm’s vehicles from being involved in a crash and that will help everyone, which is one of the main reasons why we are active supporters of this programme.”

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