Dawes Highway Safety, which has fitted its innovative and award-winning PeoplePanels® to more than 5,000 HGVs across the UK, has warned fleets to be on their guard against businesses selling similar products that infringe the company’s intellectual property and copyright.
PeoplePanels®, flat panels designed to fit over existing side guards to prevent vulnerable road users such as motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians from being crushed under the wheels of vehicles, are available for use on a wide range of commercial units ranging from 3.5-tonne units to four-wheel tippers and articulated lorries with trailers.
However, Dawes Highway Safety has already successfully taken legal action against eight organisations – settling out of court for “substantial damages” of more than £10,000 in each case – that have fitted replica panels to vehicles.
The technology, which is accredited by both the Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) and Construction Logistics and Community Safety (CLOCS), has already been adopted by safety-focused fleets that include Tarmac as well as Martin Browers, Keltbray, Mick George and Travis Perkins. PeoplePanels® are also supplied to the industry via almost all major bodybuilders in the UK.
Tarmac has to date fitted around 300 HGVs with PeoplePanels® and has committed to fitting all new tippers and mixers with this lifesaving equipment.
Sean McGrae, senior manager of national transport at Tarmac, said: “As the operator of one of the largest HGV fleets in the country it’s really important that we continually explore opportunities to drive improvements in all aspects of safety.
“We’re very pleased to see these new industry-leading PeoplePanels® added to our vehicles, further enhancing their safety credentials. Alongside adding the latest technology and safety features to our fleet, we are also committed to providing ongoing enhanced training for drivers and support to our contract hauliers both in terms of new equipment and behavioural change as part of an all-round approach to safety.”
Paul Holmes, commercial director, PeoplePanels®, said: “PeoplePanels® is a growing business with a great reputation. We commissioned a design agency to create unique icons for use on our panels. The copyright and other intellectual property rights relating to these designs have been assigned to Dawes Highway Safety.
“In recent months it has come to our attention that some fleets are using a design on their vehicles identical to those of PeoplePanels®. Those designs have not been produced by Dawes Highway Safety or authorised for use by the company and thus infringe copyright and other intellectual property rights.
“PeoplePanels® has built up a significant reputation and goodwill for its road safety product and the designs associated with the panels. Consequently we feel that it is only right to protect the business.”
Dawes Highway Safety calculates that over the typical seven-year life of a large goods vehicle the cost of a pair of panels – one for each side of the vehicle – would be less than £1 per week. What’s more, fleets fitting the innovative technology are also reaping fuel economy savings as the side panels reduce drag under a truck and trailer.
Mr Holmes continued: “PeoplePanels® is backed by a £6 million product liability insurance policy and the guard safety panels have been fully researched and impact tested.
“We believe that fleets were probably unaware that they had infringed PeoplePanels®’ copyright and other intellectual property rights by fitting guard panels with identical icons obtained from other sources.
“As a result of the legal action that Dawes Highway Safety has taken to date, we hope to make businesses aware of the risks they are taking by using products not associated with the company.
“In turn, Dawes Highway Safety has been happy to allow fleets to replace the infringing guards with PeoplePanels®’ products which deliver outstanding performance quality, have been thoroughly tested and are available with a full warranty.”
PeoplePanels’® guards are also recommended by two insurance brokers, as a mechanism for commercial vehicle fleets to reduce their insurance premiums having recognised the safety benefits of the solution to reduce companies’ exposure to work-related road risk.