Safety first

DIA Insurance ADI News

The fleet trainer relies on their wits and professionalism. Their wits come to the fore when they are challenged by attitude from the client, when thinking on their feet becomes an art form, but this has to be performed in a professional manner.

How does a fleet trainer become professional? By reflecting on every day’s training experience and asking: could I have handled that better? Should I have performed in a different way? If you cannot answer that question then you need to go and do some professional development because your stocks of skill may be running dry.

If you are working with a group of other trainers delivering on-road coaching, then exchange notes. There are often a few more experienced trainers who will discuss things with you quite freely. Soak up this experience. The reason they are where they are is because they reflected on their weaknesses and wanted to be better and did something about it. We call it Continuing Professional Development (CPD), because our development should be ongoing.

Knowledge and understanding

We’ve concluded in previous issues that there is quite a different approach required between the training of the provisional licence sector and training those who drive for business. The provisional sector seems too channelled towards a limited horizon of passing a test – getting it exactly right because there is believed to be so much scrutiny involved. The fleet trainer is more subjective. There are more considerations to mull over and then you need to think about how to bring about the change in set behaviour traits, which a learner often doesn’t have.

We mentioned in the last issue that there are some variances in remuneration for fleet training. If you are engaged with a training provider, it is often a daily rate and a varying mileage rate. However, if you work at obtaining the contract yourself, the rewards are a lot higher, but so are the expectations. The client in this instance tends to lean on you quite heavily for training and advice. They may also want you to help produce in-house training materials. 

This all needs knowledge and understanding – knowledge of the industry and the health and safety factors, and understanding of their business and what would be a desired reasonably practicable outcome. This all needs discussion and planning.

The most common reasons for driver trainer engagement are:

  • To reduce repair costs
  • To reduce vehicle wear and tear
  • To increase road safety knowledge
  • To protect the company image.

All four of the above are now very important to a business, unlike years ago when business was only concerned with product. The production/safety balance is more prevalent, especially now we are in a world so heavily influenced by social media, which plays a part in advertising, educating and reporting. 

HSE

No organisation wants to be spending out on trying to sell their good name to prospective customers, just to have that name tainted by adverse publicity, such as a court case due to an employee being prosecuted for negligence on the road in a company vehicle. In these instances, the duty of care has to be looked at and if the company gets into the press too often then the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) could pay a visit and ask to see the safety processes and the management of the duty of care to the employees and others. No organisation wants that, especially if all is not as it should be. 

The HSE is good with its advice and gives reasonable timescales with which to amend procedures and get compliance going within the organisation. This compliance has to work from the top, down. If it doesn’t then there is no way that the inherencies will ever get fixed and that is when the HSE starts to produce compliance notices, or worse, prosecution.

Of course business costs should be calculated and will reflect in the charge out of the goods and services. This includes the running of company vehicles. If those costs can be minimised, this puts an extra value on the profit, and if it is a floated company, then the shares could give good dividends and attract investment. 

Grey fleet

In order to maintain/increase profit a company may make changes. A common one in our sector is for an organisation to lease vehicles instead of buy, or even give incentives for employees to use their own vehicle for the business. The latter can become messy, because the onus of the upkeep of the vehicle is not directly in the hands of the employer because it does not have the lease contract or ownership. The employee could take the incentive and skimp on a cheaper, ‘social, domestic and pleasure’ insurance, instead of the appropriate business derivative which includes commuting and carrying the company goods or samples. 

Servicing schedules could also be stretched and vehicle checks not done properly. The connotations of this can be disastrous to the organisation in the case of a serious incident caused by vehicle component failure, or simply a collision where the driver is found to have the incorrect insurance for the purpose and use of the vehicle. 

If a death ensues as a result, generally, the company is tainted by either the Corporate Manslaughter Act or the Health and Safety Offences Act. The former could imprison the chief executive of the company for the failings of others, and the latter could be an unlimited fine on the company group – yes, group. This is why the big conglomerates now have a better and healthier stance on health and safety and put robust monitoring procedures in place and they need trainers that understand all this.

But this doesn’t mean that employees using their vehicle for company business is all bad providing the company has a robust system of checks that ensures that:

  • The driver holds a valid licence for the type and use of the vehicle
  • The vehicle is kept to regular servicing schedules
  • The vehicle is taxed under the correct taxation group and has a valid MOT where appropriate
  • The vehicle is insured for the correct intent and purpose
  • The driver is competent in the knowledge of, and handling of, the vehicle for the design, intent and purpose of use of the vehicle.

The system of employee ownership on company business is known as ‘grey fleet’ and although the vehicle is a privately owned vehicle, the company still has to maintain a duty of care to the employee, even though the employee owns the work environment when driving for business. The company needs records for maintenance and servicing and has to check driving licence validity and vehicle documents on a regular basis. 

The company also needs to consider the viability of a driver in a crash by checking against the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP). This is a car safety performance assessment programme which started in 1996 and rates vehicle strengths, under crash test conditions, to assess the injuries that could be sustained to a driver and passenger. If the privately owned vehicle does not meet a pre-set standard, as determined by the employer, then the vehicle cannot be used for business purposes and the employee would have to be issued with an alternative vehicle. Many employers insist on the vehicle being less than three years old at the start of the grey fleet scheme and review.

It is very common with smaller companies to be training in private vehicles that are on the grey fleet company scheme. Ensure that the owner knows how to do the daily checks. So many times have I caught the company out, when the employers brief me and tell me that the driver must be carrying out the daily checks because personnel or the fleet manager has documentary evidence to show it is being done. When I ask the driver to pull the bonnet to check the windscreen washer bottle and other fluids, that driver hasn’t got a clue where the bonnet catch is! This has to be reported back to the company. It means that their systems are not robust enough and could potentially lead them to very serious consequences if an incident took place with that driver. 

Take my advice

The other thing is, if you report it, and they do nothing about it, and an investigation takes place and your report comes to light, it shows that you gave the correct advice, and it fell on deaf ears. I had such an instance in East Sussex in 2007 where I advised an organisation to do some follow-up training with the guys that towed trailers because of the way I saw the guys hitching in the yard. I wasn’t there for that purpose, but I made a comment about it in a report. 

Thirteen months later one of the van and trailer combinations came undone on the approach to a zebra crossing in a high street and the trailer hit an eight-year-old boy causing fractures to his left arm and leg. The investigation showed that the follow-up training was not done and a Compliance Notice was issued to the organisation by the Health and Safety Executive. The company was fined £20,000 for breach of safe systems of work. That eight-year-old boy did not need to be injured.

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Source: ADI News

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