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Corporate manslaughter – can your business afford the risk?

By David Buckles
Wednesday, June 10, 2015 - 14:12

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A crash in your company car puts you under the spotlight

In his latest post for FleetPoint, David Buckles looks at some of the key ways a company can combat culpability in corporate manslaughter

The Occupational Road Safety Alliance claims that business drivers are 25-30% more likely to have a collision than private drivers. This significant increase in risk means that if you’re an employer or business owner with a fleet, you need to be aware of where responsibilities fall in relation to business driver incidents on the road in order to protect your job, your business and your employees.

Accidents happen, and should the unimaginable occur and someone dies as a result of an incident involving one of your vehicles and drivers, how do you protect yourself from a corporate manslaughter conviction?

Driver assessments and training

Just because an employee can show you proof of driving, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the most alert and confident driver on the road. Carrying out online or offline driver assessments and training can give you the security that your drivers are confident, competent and considerate behind the wheel in any situation, which will reduce the risk of driver collisions.

Driver training to improve the safety and efficiency of your employees’ driving techniques can benefit companies in more ways than just reducing the risk of accidents. Smarter driving techniques can also reduce your maintenance and repair costs, plus reduce fuel spend by up to 20% according to the consumer energy centre.

Reinforce the message

Keep up to date with any changes to the law or new legislations affecting business drivers and be sure to regularly update your employees with what it means for them and any tips or new codes of practice you can offer them as a result. Issuing driver handbooks can offer them a quick reference guide and dispel any uncertainties your team may have around how often they should take breaks, legalities on alcohol and substance use, speed limits and payload limitations on vehicles.

Driver licence checks

Recently, the process of checking driving licences has become slightly trickier with the abolition of the paper counterpart. As an employer, you still need to know that your staff are legally able to drive your company vehicles and that you are aware of any driving offences they have outstanding. Thankfully, you can check your employees’ details via the DVLA’s Share Driving Licence service – which is free to access online. The service will allow the licence holder to download a summary of the driving licence record, which can then be printed and shared.

Don’t run your fleet into the ground

Business owners I speak to often believe that buying vehicles is better than hiring vehicles. However, with owning a fleet comes the responsibility and pressure to regularly ensure your vehicles are fit for purpose. With a hired vehicle, compliance checks and maintenance intervals are managed for you as the responsibility for running safe vehicles is shared with the rental company. If you do have an owned fleet, you can minimise the risk of operating poorly maintained vehicles by well-documenting evidence such as MOTs and a full service history.

Regular maintenance checks

No matter how old your vehicles are, it’s essential to make sure a few simple checks are carried out regularly to keep them running safely. Regularly checking tyres, brakes and even ensuring the windscreen washer fluid is topped up can be the difference between a major and minor incident. Your vehicle may have recently passed its MOT, but additional wear and tear in just a matter of months can impact greatly on vehicle safety.

Ultimately, you can never completely control what your drivers are up to while on the road or the situations they will face. But you can influence driver behaviour through appropriate assessments and training interventions and take steps to ensure yourself, your business and your drivers are protected from convictions if the worst should happen.

When implementing a few additional safety procedures can mean the difference between receiving a criminal conviction or not, can you afford to take the risk?

David Buckles is New Business Manager at Northgate Vehicle Hire

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