Bad Weather Reinforces The Need For Sound Fleet Policy
The combination of ‘the Beast from the East’ and ‘Storm Emma’ has created some of the worst travelling conditions that many of us can recall, with regular images of stranded drivers and abandoned vehicles.
Significant storms, like those we have just witnessed, prevent many workers from being able to report for work, creating significant declines in revenue for the duration of the bad weather, or even for a longer period of time.
For example, breakdown company, Green Flag, reported that, in one particularly bad wintry week three years ago, over 8.5 million or 18% of British adults were unable to work their contracted hours because of the adverse weather, costing employers an estimated £318 million in lost productivity.
The severity of this year’s storms suggests the figure may be higher still for the winter of 2017/18.
What should businesses do in extreme weather?
For many companies, advice for staff in such adverse conditions should be unequivocal – do not travel if you are putting yourself and your vehicle at jeopardy. That meeting can always be re-arranged or a conference call can replace it. The advice should be detailed in the company’s fleet and/or health and safety policy,
But what about those companies which don’t have a proper policy in place governing corporate travel and the circumstances when it is appropriate and acceptable to travel, but perhaps more importantly, when it is not?
Having a fleet driving policy in place that covers all eventualities, including driving in adverse conditions, is a must for any business that operates a fleet of company vehicles. Perhaps surprisingly, there are still companies out there who do not have such a policy in place.
What to do in event of a breakdown
Most motoring organisations report considerable increases in calls from drivers who have broken down in bad weather. So, it’s quite clear that, to begin with, there should be clear advice on what company drivers should do in the event of a breakdown.
All drivers should be provided with a drivers’ handbook outlining the name and contact details of their designated breakdown provider as well as detailing all relevant emergency and out-of-hours phone numbers.
For new vehicles still covered by the manufacturer, a breakdown policy needs to take into account the manufacturer’s preferred breakdown and recovery provider,
Then, in the event of a breakdown, especially in bad weather conditions, the driver will know exactly what he or she must do.
Accident management is a must
If your drivers are involved in an accident do they know exactly what to do and who to inform?
Having drivers off the road for an unnecessary length of time can cost both the business in terms of lost productivity and manpower and drivers through potential loss of earnings.
All drivers should be encouraged to report incidents as soon as it is safe to do so, and the quality of information captured at this stage is essential to the speed and success of the overall process.
The incident details that should be captured include circumstances, weather conditions, speed, third-party details, number of passengers or injuries, police involvement, stolen items, witnesses and indication of blame.
All drivers should have to do is phone a dedicated accident management number provided – at any time of the day or night – to be put in touch with the designated accident management provider.
There should be no distinction between in-hours and out-of-hours services, with call response times, and standards of service remaining consistently high regardless of the time of day.
Health and safety responsibilities
The policy governing driving in adverse conditions should fall under the remit of the company’s designated health and safety executive, and outlined in the fleet driving policy.
Companies should ensure they have a dedicated member of the workforce to carry out this role or that it forms part of someone’s work responsibilities – typically depending on the size of the business.
Under the law, it is an employer’s duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees and other people who might be affected by their business. Employers must do whatever is reasonably practicable to achieve this.
This means making sure that workers and others are protected from anything that may cause harm, effectively controlling any risks to injury or health that could arise in the workplace – and outside the workplace if it involves company vehicles.
Employers have duties under health and safety law to assess risks both in and outside the workplace. Risk assessments should be carried out that address all risks that might cause potential harm to employees.
Vehicle checks should be mandatory
As businesses and drivers begin getting back to normal after a spell of wintry weather, checking the condition of vehicles should become even more important.
Regular vehicle checks should be a mandatory part of any driver policy to ensure that the vehicle is in a roadworthy condition and that the company is not being placed in any potential liability situation.
Accidents that occur because of the lack of road worthiness of a company-provided vehicle will always come back to the company as a failure of its duty of care.
And to make sure that duty of care is being met, regular vehicle checks are essential. These should include:
- Tyre tread depths – 1.6mm is the legal minimum but most companies will advocate changing their tyres well above that level
- Fluid levels – oil, water, washer fluid – all should be checked on a regular basis to ensure they are at satisfactory levels
- Lights – the condition of lights should be checked regularly and any cracked lights or faulty bulbs should be reported and replaced immediately
- General condition – any change in the general condition of the vehicle, including its running or its bodywork, should be immediately reported.
It is the drivers’ responsibility to complete these checks at a frequency laid down in the corporate fleet policy and the results provided to the relevant company executive, typically a fleet or line manager.
To help businesses frame the ideal fleet policy, CLM has compiled a comprehensive fleet policy guide. To download your free copy click here.