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Rental giant Northgate Vehicle Hire becomes latest business champion

1 September 2010

Britain’s largest vehicle rental company, Northgate Vehicle Hire, has been invited to join the government-backed Driving for Better Business campaign, which is managed by RoadSafe.

Darlington-based Northgate Vehicle Hire, which operates a UK-wide fleet of 60,000 cars and vans, becomes the campaign’s 49th business champion and its first national vehicle rental company.

Northgate Vehicle Hire’s elevation to business champion status comes as the organisation completes a major rebranding of its fleet and 60 rental locations most of which have state-of-the-art workshop facilities for servicing, maintenance and repair. The company also has around 48,000 vehicles for hire through its Spanish rental business.

The campaign uses its business champions to promote the financial, legal and moral benefits of occupational road risk management to public and private sector organisations across the UK.

At Northgate Vehicle Hire responsibility for work-related road safety management is overseen by Chief Executive Bob Contreras.

Colin Gilstin, Group Health, Safety and Environment Manager at Northgate Vehicle Hire, said, “Safety is a high priority for the business. We take our legal obligations for duty of care to our staff and our customers seriously.

“Prior to each vehicle being issued to a customer it undergoes a thorough inspection by a qualified and experienced technician to make sure it has been comprehensively serviced and meets our road safety standard which also aids compliance with our customers’ duty of care responsibilities. This process is applied every time the vehicle is hired out, even if more than once in a single day.”

In addition, Northgate Vehicle Hire promotes the importance of at-work driving safety to its customers and their drivers through a vehicle user handbook that provides clear and concise information in relation to work-related road safety and a ‘Driver’s Guide to Road Safety’.

The company uses the Health and Safety Executive/Department for Transport’s
‘Driving at Work: Managing Work-Related Road Safety’ guidance as its at-work driving safety policy benchmark.

Northgate Vehicle Hire employs approximately 650 full time drivers across the Group. They are employed to collect and deliver the company’s hire vehicles across the UK. All drivers comply with the company’s safe driving standards throughout their duties in accordance with Group policies and the Highway Code.

Records reveal that Northgate Vehicle Hire has a very low incident rate and Mr Gilstin said, “That is a record we are keen to retain and improve even further. Our belief is that only constant attention to work-related road safety provides any degree of security. Our ethos that every driver is delivering a vehicle to a customer means that safety, presentation and reliability are and remain important factors in the way the company does its business. As a consequence, we believe that prevention is better than cure.”

He continued, “The historical and future focus of Northgate Vehicle Hire remains in ensuring that employees who drive on work-related business are provided with instruction, training and support to ensure their safety. They are the company’s image in the minds of our customers. The overall objective of the business at all times is to ensure the continuous health and well-being of its employees who drive on work-related business.

“By developing and maintaining a business culture which places the health and safety of employees at its core we are able to increase staff morale by demonstrating that their at-work driving risks are carefully managed. As a result we are able to reduce
absenteeism, insurance premiums and vehicle repair costs and increase productivity.

“We also ensure that work-related road safety controls are consistently reviewed as to their suitability. This forms part of our internal risk control management reviews. Where the need for any improvements is identified, requirements and performance measures are defined and agreed for implementation by senior management to provide the necessary solutions.”

Following any road traffic incident which may involve an employee, a thorough review of the circumstances is undertaken by the Northgate plc safety and environment and insurance departments to ensure controls are appropriate or where it may be necessary operational procedures can be amended.

Internally, significant investment in health and safety sees employees attend a range of courses to equip them with the necessary safety skills and knowledge for their roles. For example, Northgate Vehicle Hire has now trained almost a third of its 2,000 employees to a British Safety Council Level One standard in health and safety with senior managers attending the three-day Level Two course with further training taking place this year.

Mr Gilstin concluded, “We are particularly keen to promote our safety intentions to all external stakeholders in order to clearly demonstrate that safety is the number one priority within the organisation. We believe we have achieved significant improvements over recent times and we will continue to look at ways to improve and promote safety throughout our industry.”

Further underlining Northgate Vehicle Hire’s duty of care credentials is that the company won a prestigious Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents’ (RoSPA) Gold Award for the second consecutive year in 2010. The company previously won Silver Awards in 2006 and 2008.

Michael Parish, programme consultant for the ‘Driving for Better Business’ campaign, said, “Northgate Vehicle Hire is delivering at-work driving safety improvements on two fronts - internally with its employees but also by significantly influencing its customers.

“That strategy is absolutely core to the aims of the campaign, which is to use our ‘business champions’ to promote best practice and the business benefits of at-work driving safety to small, medium and large organisations across the UK.”


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