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15.10.13

Driving for better business

Source: Public Sector Executive Sept/Oct 2013

It is hard to imagine a local or central government organisation which puts its staff at risk; however there are many who simply do not assess the true risks facing their people. Adrian Walsh, director of RoadSafe and the Driving for Better Business campaign, writes for PSE. 

An estimated one-third of road traffic accidents in Britain involve someone at work, excluding commuting journeys. Every year there are over 10,000 road deaths and serious injuries involving people at work.

The human and financial costs to families, businesses and the wider community are enormous and nearly all of these deaths and injuries are preventable. 

For the majority of people, the most dangerous thing they do while at work is drive on the public highway. 

It is not simply a matter of improving the way staff drive, there is much more to it and by managing this area of business better, Essex County Council for example believes that all its employees have a part to play in contributing to making the organisation a safe and healthy place to work. Every employee is responsible for maintaining their working environment and for following safe working practices.

The council has gone to great lengths to assess risk and has shown that the highest is driving. It is a champion of the ‘Driving for Better Business’ campaign, which puts over a simple message: manage this risk well and increased efficiency will result. 

It has well-publicised policy statements that help to reduce risk, and offers advice and guidance to employees on a range of topics. The council puts a high emphasis on driving and its management-led programmes cover areas as diverse as alcohol and drugs, alternative modes of transport and journey planning. 

Its Car Provision Scheme promotes the opportunity of driver training to all users. This is an informal session of theory and practical learning covering defensive driving and tips for increased safety on the roads. Driver training is offered free of charge to the employee and the aim is to improve the safety of employees whilst driving, whether for business or private mileage. 

The session is a half-day with one hour ‘classroom’ group of around five or six people, then two to three hours on the road 1:1 with an instructor who will give a short demonstration drive. The employee drives for the remainder of the session, receiving useful tips and advice. 

However, the council recognises that training is not enough and has in place a strict series of management checks and rules to ensure that what is taught is not forgotten. 

Although the number of lease car accidents has fallen since 2010 – with fewer than 30% of these drivers having accidents – these drivers are an area that Essex County Council will in the future identify to provide further training to in order to continue the reduction of this number.

Like many others, a large number of council employees use their own personal vehicle for business purposes. The county council encourages employees to use public transport for journeys where this would prove practical and cost effective. Drivers who use their personal vehicles for council business must ensure that their vehicle is insured for business use, has a valid vehicle excise licence (tax disc) and a current MOT certificate (if necessary) as well as servicing and maintenance at the recommended intervals. These documents must be shown on a six-monthly basis and random spot checks may be made. 

The Staff Travel Plan aims to encourage sustainable travel by offering employees a range of options to consider for commuting and business travel. These options include teleconferencing facilities, and a car sharing scheme with free car sharing parking spaces available. 

About 300 people are killed each year as a result of drivers falling asleep at the wheel. About 4 in 10 tiredness-related crashes involve someone driving a commercial vehicle. Essex is not alone in recognising this so has clear and specific guidance on how to avoid this risk. This covers travel policy as well as practical advice which deals with coping with tiredness: stop, rest and sleep! 

Essex County Council is piloting The Office of Government Commerce’s five-step process to tackle grey fleet. 

Driving for Better Business is a campaign to raise awareness of the importance of work-related road safety in the business community and public sector by using advocates drawn from these communities to promote the business benefits of managing it effectively. 

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