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Driver training won't save you from prison...

Date: 14 August 2014

. but in the event of a fatal accident, having a clear fleet management policy will, says Nigel Grainger, managing director of Fleet Risk Consultants

Just imagine the scene: you are sat at your desk drinking your first coffee or tea of the day and the phone rings.

John, your top salesman for the past three years, has some bad news. The company car and the vehicle it hit are both write-offs, and while he hasn't been drinking, he may have been speeding. Worse still, he's waiting to hear if the driver of the other car has been killed.

It's terrible news, but, thinking professionally and personally, while also trying to find any positive aspects to the situation, at least your colleague is unhurt physically, and the driver training session you attended last month will cover any consequences from a risk management perspective.

Actually, no, it won't.

I'm not against driver training - I have undergone a lot of it in the past, mainly as research - but all it does is improve specific skills.

For example, driver 'A' has had a number of minor scrapes to the rear of the vehicle, all caused, he says, while parking. If his eyesight is fine then this driver could need training on how to park his vehicle and or use his parking sensors. However, it is possible that he can't judge distance because his eyes are defective, in which case training won't fix the issue.

What you should worry about is whether you have a rock-solid and clear policy telling staff, drivers and management what you expect them to do, and what is acceptable behaviour and what is not.

It is demonstrating that you have a fleet management policy and are able to enforce it that will prevent you, the fleet manager, from facing a prison sentence under corporate manslaughter legislation.

There are a variety of areas you can include a written policy, but at the least it should cover:

. who is responsible for what
. vehicle specifications
. private vehicle usage
. collisions/theft/fire and vandalism
. mobile phones and electronic equipment (including satnav)
. road rage
. health and eyesight
. driver training
. licence and document checks
. maintenance provision
. driver identification
. smoking.

It doesn't need to be complicated, and you could do it yourself. Below is the 'driver responsibility' section from the policies we provide to our clients, so you have a start point. It clearly lets your drivers know they will be responsible for:  

. reading, understanding and complying with the vehicle manufacturer's handbook
. reading, understanding and complying with your business road risk policy and driver's handbook (this policy outline). reading, understanding and complying with a current version of the Highway Code
. ensuring that all changes of driver are recorded on the vehicle log
. making sure that the vehicle is serviced according to the manufacturer's recommendations, at the correct times, and by authorised garages
. ensuring that the vehicle is in good working condition and satisfies all legal requirements (e.g. that it has correct tyre tread depth, effective brakes, lights and steering - details of items to be checked can be detailed on a vehicle check sheet)
. making sure the vehicle is maintained with the correct types and amounts of oil, fuel and anti-freeze
. ensuring that the vehicle is kept in a clean and tidy condition
. ensuring you keep proper control of the keys to the vehicle at all times
. ensuring that any damage is reported to (and repairs authorised by) the company or its appointed agent so that the car is repaired without delay
. displaying a valid road tax disc (but not necessary from October)
. sending a spare key to head office
. ensuring that all relevant recall notices are actioned
. paying all fines and vehicle-related penalties
. recording all business mileage
. ensuring the safety and security of loads, passengers and towed equipment
. complying with all relevant legislation applying to the particular vehicle/journey
. driving in a manner that is safe, legal and with due consideration for other road users.

You must get your drivers to confirm in writing they have read and understood the policy. The best way to do that is to have a quiz that each driver must complete to confirm understanding.

Of course, once you have all this in place you will have to enforce it. For example, do you have the authority to warn the managing director or chairman of your company that using a hand-held mobile phone is not acceptable and if he continues he will be subject to the company disciplinary process? If you haven't, then you should have.

Whatever you have in your policy you must follow through on or it's a complete waste of time and trees. You have to ask, if it all goes wrong, how comfortable are you that you have done everything practicable to ensure the safety of the general public and your employees?

That is the key factor about risk management, and not did I train drivers to extend their view around a corner.