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Fleet bosses demand tax breaks for safety and eco-friendly extras (continued)

Date: 25 July 2007

At its inaugural meeting the BusinessCar Panel said more must be done to drive the take-up of satnav and ESC

One of the reasons why firms may not have updated their fleet handbooks is because many are struggling to cope with the speed with which new navigation technology is being introduced. However, failure to act is risking potential litigious run-ins with the police and the Health and Safety Executive, warned our panel.

A further concern was raised by Lincolnshire County Council's Elliot.

"How long will it be before GPS units follow mobile phone's lead in having their use investigated if there is a serious or fatal accident?" asked Elliot, although he concluded that a third witness would probably be vital for a successful conviction as satnavs currently don't record timings.

Visibility risk

The installation of aftermarket units came under fire from our panel, who were concerned that poor placement can obscure vision and therefore could pose a significant risk in terms of causing an accident.

"Our advice from the police is there isn't any guidance other than keep the units out of the line of sight," said Elliot.

Julie Boyd runs the fleet for dealer group and fleet car provider Listers, and said her organisation had already identified the risk: "When fitting Blaupunkt satnav into our vans we went for the additional cost of cradles rather than a gooseneck [windscreen] attachment for that [safety] reason. We had no guidelines - it was our own decision and judgement on the policy."

John Hesketh, like many others running a fleet has also identified the eyesight risk, as well as the potential of satnavs being dislodged in an accident and striking occupants. However, he also cites security grounds as a reason for not using aftermarket satnavs, and tells a recent story of a colleague's car that was broken into because an aftermarket satnav was on view.

Hesketh also warns his drivers against using aftermarket systems for the lack of control they provide.

He explained: "We prefer standard factory-fit units like the satnavs fitted to Jaguars, because you cannot program them on the move."

Elliot added that fitting aftermarket equipment could pose a risk to occupants, a risk the blue light fleets are well aware of.

"Car manufacturers go to great lengths to create soft and absorbent impact areas that organisations such as the police have to cut out to install hard equipment. This has resulted in serious leg and knee injuries," explained Elliot, who suggested that fitting non-standard equipment that hadn't been crash-tested could pose a risk. Elliot added, though, that as long as fleets acted reasonably and had a "genuine belief what they were doing was the best for their drivers" they would remain within the spirit of the duty of care legislation.