The best business advice, opinion, news and expertise in Greater Manchester and further afield.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Top 10 Tips: To keep your fleet safe and business moving

by Sean Joyce, Stephensons Solicitors LLP

Any business that has it's own vehicles on the road or expects employees to make work related journeys in their own vehicles (‘Grey Fleet’) must remember that they can be held criminally liable for ‘permitting’ their employees to commit offences behind the wheel.

1. Roadworthiness
Have a written driver defect reporting system for all vehicles. Train drivers on how to conduct visual walk round inspections of vehicles and make a written record of any defects they discover. This can be daily or weekly depending on the types of vehicles and the distances driven. Keep records of these driver defect records.

2. Rectification
If drivers find a defect, have a system that enables them to report it to you. Have a system to ensure that the defect is rectified and keep a record of the fact the defect was fixed. This can be a specific rectification report and copy of the invoice from the repairer, or it could be as simple as a handwritten confirmation and signature of the fact it was done, when and by whom.

3. Periodic safety inspections
As well as the daily or weekly visual, walk round checks by your drivers, consider periodic safety inspections by a qualified mechanic. This is a more detailed mechanical check of the vehicle which could be carried out quarterly or half yearly in between annual MOT inspections. An MOT simply confirms that the vehicle is roadworthy at the date of the check. All sorts can go wrong in between annual tests that might not be apparent to the driver but could still pose a serious hazard. Keep records of these periodic checks.

4. Plan key dates
Use forward planners or another diary system to ensure all vehicles are properly insured (including cover for business use), within MOT dates, properly taxed. This is especially important with the ‘Grey Fleet’. You cannot necessarily rely on your employees not to miss dates. Insist staff produce copies of these documents for retention by you.

5. Be organised
Keep vehicle specific files containing all maintenance records, insurance, registration and MOT documents etc. If one of your vehicles is involved in a serious incident, the investigating authority, be it the Police, Vehicle Operator Services Agency or Health and Safety Executive have extensive powers to visit your premises and seize documents. By having your records easily to hand in organised files will immediately show that you have robust and effective preventative maintenance systems in place, a culture of compliance and promoting road safety and it also means documents are less easily mislaid.

6. Membership of road side recovery organisations
Don't risk one of your vehicles breaking down and having your employee stranded on the hard shoulder of the motorway putting lives at risk.

7. Consider appointing a fleet or transport manager
Be it full or part time, a transport manager can effectively implement your preventative vehicle safety systems and retain your records for inspection if required.

8. Periodically train your drivers
Tell them regularly what your policies are in relation to mobile phone use, limits on drivers hours, weight restrictions of the vehicles they drive (there are individual axle limits as well as gross weight limits), how to properly and safely load a vehicle, what your procedures are in the event of an accident, and what standards you expect of them. Keep records of the training you have given them. Training helps promote a culture of compliance within your work force and will demonstrate to the authorities (should you ever need to) that your business is committed to road safety rather than just paying lip service.

9. Assess fitness to drive
Are your drivers fit and legally able to drive? Ask to see their driving licences every six months to ensure they are still valid and keep you informed of driving convictions. Keep photocopies of the paper counterpart. If you have suspicions about alcohol or drug abuse then insist on a medical assessment of their fitness to drive.

10. Introduce written time sheets
As a company you are required by law to keep records about who is driving a particular vehicle at a particular time in the event that the vehicle is, for example, caught on a speed camera. Failure to do so attracts a fine. You should also be able to demonstrate compliance with the Working Time Directive. Asking your staff, especially your drivers, to complete time sheets will enable you to do all of this as well as keeping a record of the number of hours each day and each week that they are actually driving as opposed to doing some other activity. This will enable you to ensure that your drivers are not suffering from fatigue behind the wheel, a common cause of crashes.

This list is not exhaustive and much will depend on the type of business and nature of journeys and vehicles involved.

The latest edition of Legal 500 ranks Stephensons as a top 60 UK law firm and the fifth largest legal practice in the North West. The firm has 26 partners and more than 350 staff in five locations; Manchester, Wigan, Bolton, Leigh and St Helens. For more information, visit www.stephensons.co.uk.

No comments:

Post a Comment