Under the Microscope: We speak to Ross Moorlock, Brake's business development director
03 December 2018
Road safety charity Brake works hard to reduce the number of deaths on our roads, particularly striving to improve the safety of fleets. Rachel Boagey investigates.
Road safety charity Brake was founded in 1995 as a fleet safety campaign. Its roots are therefore tied to work-related road risk and fleet safety, which remains a big part of what the charity does to this day.
Brake is the organisation behind Road Safety Week, the UK's biggest annual road safety event, which is running from 19-24 November. The safety charity is constantly working with communities and organisations across the UK to stop the tragedy of road deaths and injuries, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and support people bereaved and seriously injured on roads. The focus of this year's Road Safety Week is 'bike smart', a topic that will resonate with many fleets across the UK.
"Road crashes tear apart thousands of lives every year, and cyclists and motorbike riders are particularly vulnerable road users," Ross Moorlock, business development manager at Brake, tells us.
A vision zero approach
Moorlock says the charity's 'vision zero' approach to road deaths, incidents and injuries aims to get people around in a way that's safe, sustainable, healthy and fair.
"That applies across everything we do from a road safety perspective and certainly to fleet as well," he says.
Last year, the government released statistics around general road safety, showing that it had stagnated on a UK level, with one additional road death in 2017 compared with the previous year.
"The statistics showed that very little change has happened, certainly regarding those killed in collisions," Moorlock says. "While it has not really grown, it has not reduced. Clearly, we know road safety is still a massive issue for the UK, and fleet industry and professional drivers play a significant part in those numbers. The issue is still a big and important one, and a lot of work still has to be done around it."
Following the government stats, the charity recently conducted its own fleet safety survey. From over 100 responses, Brake discovered some pretty interesting results. More than a third (38%) of respondents believe that the fleet industry as a whole is not doing enough to look after cyclists and motorcyclists. Three-quarters (74%) of respondents believe their organisation has the right policies in place to protect cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians. One in four organisations (27%) prioritises meeting delivery targets over road safety, while fewer than four in ten (37%) respondents believe that government policy-makers are doing enough to protect vulnerable road users; a similar number (36%) think there is scope for further action to be taken.
Major concerns for fleet managers include speed limits on rural roads, with 42% claiming these are too fast to keep cyclists safe. Nine out of ten respondents (92%) said that cyclists could do more to protect themselves on the roads. Just 4% disagreed with this statement, and not a single respondent claimed that drivers are always at fault in collisions between cyclists and motorised vehicles.
"It is quite well known that cyclists and motorcyclists are among the most vulnerable road users across the UK," explains Moorlock. "More than 100 are injured every single day, so it is an incredibly pressing issue for us to be talking about now.
"Some of the results from our survey are not massively surprising but some really are, and a big focus with our fleet work is that there is a lot to be done to make sure organisations have the right policies in place, and training drivers and making them aware of what policies are. We want to see them working with their drivers to make sure policies are effectively instilled and that they're doing reporting at the back end and getting useful data."
Working with fleets
Brake also has a Professional website, a not-for-profit membership service for fleet operators and suppliers, founded by the charity in 1996.
"Through that Brake Professional platform we disseminate best practice occupational road risk management techniques," explains Moorlock. "We do that through a programme of webinars and online guidance, and we very much celebrate best practice through our safety awards, which took place in October 2018 and were attended by over 400 fleet professionals."
During Road Safety Week, Moorlock highlights that Brake is calling for policymakers and fleet managers within organisations who have at-work drivers to start or push even harder for a focus on the safety of cyclists on the roads.
"We want them to be thinking bike smart and investing in the right life-saving technology, as well as training their drivers and speaking to them about the risks on our roads."
On the subject of driver distraction, Moorlock says the charity knows that it is still a very big issue for at-work drivers.
"There is lots of new technology coming in that is making vehicles much safer, but some of that technology also creates new or different distractions as well," Moorlock says. "We very much position ourselves on the basis that if it draws the driver's attention away from the road then it's a distraction - and that could be anything from mobile phones or new technology such as a lot of the new sat-navs being put into vehicles, to listening to music or speaking to passengers.
"Our research shows most fleet managers are aware of the risk of distraction and have an understanding of what is likely to distract their drivers; however, it needs to be better referenced in company policy."
Intesestingly, Brake often disagrees with certain laws surrounding driver safety, and advocates changes in the law around certain topics.
"We believe in not just the banning of handheld devices, but also hands-free mobile phones, as the distraction is not just holding the phone, it's the call," says Moorlock.
The charity encourages fleets to look and act past the law, which can be trailing behind safety concerns, and support drivers by making their own safety policies.
"We're asking fleet managers to prioritise safety over delivery time and time schedules, allowing drivers to have lunch breaks so they're not eating while driving and not ringing them while they're in the car," says Moorlock.
For example, Royal Mail, the UK's biggest fleet of 50,000 vehicles, has implemented an organisation-wide ban on hands-free calls for their fleet.
"We're supporting organisations taking action and seeing that the call itself is the distraction," explains Moorlock. "We recommend that fleets, particularly on this one, go beyond what is a legal requirement for them, and then hopefully other fleets will follow their lead."
One area the charity has been working on in 2018 is mental health.
"This issue is getting a lot more attention in the industry now and we see this as a real positive," says Moorlock. "There are now quite a few events where mental health is very much on the agenda and more fleet managers are now aware of this. Despite this, though, a lack of understanding still exists, so we're going to try to
keep building awareness around that as it is vital for road safety in our opinion. We believe it will only get higher up the agenda moving forward."
Autonomous vehicles and the future
Another issue that Moorlock believes is a cause for concern in terms of road safety is autonomous vehicles.
"Our standpoint is that rigorous testing is required of all new technology and we're very firm on that," he says. "There is so much testing going on all over the world and that's great, but until we know these vehicles are able to deliver what people are saying they are able to then they should not be active on our roads."
Moorlock outlines that the charity is absolutely supportive of safety innovations that will make a difference in a positive way, "but getting up to level 5 automation is a very different beast." While he explains it has many benefits, there are lots of challenges too.
"Do we know yet whether an autonomous vehicle is capable of self driving in all circumstances and will there be issues in handing control back to the driver in short notice?" he explains. "Mixing autonomous vehicles and conventional vehicles raises concerns too."
Launching in 2019, Moorlock tells us about Brake's Global Fleet Champions initiative, which includes the Global Fleet Champions Awards and Standards Committee.
"It is an academically underpinned global project to prevent deaths and injuries caused by road crashes and air pollution as a result of vehicles operated for work purposes," he says.
Global Fleet Champions will replace Brake's existing Brake Professional service, acting as an essential service for employers with staff who drive for work.
"It will provide invites to attend Brake's conferences, seminars, workshops and webinars, as well as access to resources including best practice guidance report and case studies," he explains.
"It will also provide opportunities to enter and attend a programme of domestic
and global fleet safety awards and opportunities to engage in and support global road safety initiatives."
Moorlock says that it is vital for fleets to keep on top of important issues around driving for work. New technology is going to be very much on the agenda for many years to come for Brake, and Moorlock says fleet managers need to adapt and evolve with it too.
"The fleet industry has done it before and needs to continue to do that from a safety perspective," he states.
More than a year ago, the Ministry of Justice looked into new penalties and punishments for people committing certain driving crimes.
"Now we are 12 months on and those sentences haven't been introduced yet," Moorlock says. "Going forward into next year Brake will be pushing the government to introduce tougher sentences for drivers killing people on our roads. The plans happened due to campaigning from us, so it's going to be another big campaign from us to change these laws for good."