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Public sector ‘failing’ grey flet drivers

October 7, 2008

Graham Feest, a road safety consultant and secretary of the Association of Industrial Road Safety Officers (AIRSO), said the introduction of the Corporate Manslaughter Act in April should have been a wakeup call for public sector fleets.

“The grey fleet in statutory bodies is the worst risk they have,” he said.

“I am not a betting man but if I were I would bet that the first organisation to be prosecuted under the new Corporate Manslaughter Act will be a statutory body.”

Mr Feest singled out emergency services as being among the worst culprits.

He said while they manage their own blue-light vehicles well, when it comes to managing their grey fleet many emergency services are “appalling”.

Mr Feest speaks both as a road safety expert and also as a former borough council employee and former vice chairman of the Local Authority Road safety Officers’ Association.

“It will take a chief executive, a chief inspector or a chief fire officer to finish up in court on a corporate manslaughter charge before they wake up to the fact that they can’t ignore their grey fleet.”

Improvements to the safety of many public sector fleets have seen them become leaders in their field.

Gateshead Council was this week named as a business champion under the government’s Driving for Better Business programme.

However, many such organisations – including Gateshead Council – are not making the same progress when it comes to managing their grey fleet.

Despite becoming a business champion, Gateshead for example has no policy in place for managing its grey fleet.

A spokesman said the council was only at the stage of “developing” a grey fleet policy and could not say when it would come into force.

Ed James, communications manager for Roadsafe, which runs the Driving for Better Business programme, said there is no assessment of how an organisation manages its grey fleet before it is made a business champion.

“RoadSafe does not have the authority or capability to impose standards,” he said.

“We are more about stimulating debate and encouraging organisations to address occupational road risk.”

While Mr Feest said the majority of public sector fleets are ignoring grey fleet risk – “they are not practicing what they preach” – he said there are some exceptions.

West Yorkshire Fire Service and Somerset County Council are both addressing their grey fleet.

“In our case – and I am sure in many other organisations – our grey fleet is out largest fleet so we can’t just ignore it,” said Andy Wood, head of driver training, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service.

“Organisations can’t adopt the ostrich approach and put their head in the sand.”

The West Yorkshire blue light service has some 2,000 grey fleet vehicles, 60 or 70 of which are being used for business every day.

Every driver is now subject to an annual licence check and their vehicles must be maintained to manufacturers’ recommendations.

They must also have business use insurance.

Mr Wood said the emergency service’s grey fleet policy is under constant review and will be updated.

“If you pay employees to use their vehicle for work then you have a duty of care towards them – you cannot differentiate between their own car and one you provide for them.”


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