All fleet operators in the UK take road safety seriously. The country has some of the safest roads in the world and professional drivers and transport companies must take some of the credit for that. However, things are changing for the fleet manager.
In the past, the safety policy of the company only needed to apply in normal weather conditions. The UK would occasionally see a flurry of snow and even though most months come with a lot of rain, the natural drainage system would seldom be under pressure. All this is changing.
The extreme events of the past two months, which have seen thousands of motorists stranded on flood-hit roads and gale-force winds push HGVs around like toys, are becoming more common, with experts linking the patterns to global warming. This means good road safety can no longer take hospitable weather as a given and fleets need to plan and prepare for more adverse and extreme conditions.
Legally, managing the risks to drivers at work requires employers to do more than merely comply with road traffic legislation. The Health and Safety at Worketc Act 1974 requires employers to take appropriate steps to ensure the health and safety of their employees and others who may be affected by their activities when at work. The scope of this rule includes the time in which people are driving in a company or hired vehicle. It is true that the weather is not under the control of the fleet, but an employer must do everything reasonably practicable to protect people from harm in the workplace and while fleet operators are unable to predict the hazards, they can minimize the threat they can cause.
To be effectively controlled, weather-related road safety needs to integrated into existing arrangements for managing transport health and safety. Drivers need to take part in training sessions that inform them how much of an impact ice can have on the stopping distance of their vehicles and they need to have the best practice methods of dealing with fog ingrained into their behavior. Fleets will have to make sure their vehicles are well maintained, as any defect has the potential to be a serious, life-threatening issue in the most trying weather conditions.
It is no surprise that extreme weather is responsible for many of the road traffic accidents seen during the winter months of the UK. If these events of snow, ice, mist, fog, floods and storms are set to become more widespread, will the incidents of weather-related crashes also increase in frequency? It is a fleet operator’s duty to ensure that the answer is no. Public transport providers and transport and logistics companies must do all that they can to ensure drivers can cope with the new norm of extreme weather and keep Britain’s roads some of the safest around.
© 2014, Allen Smith. All rights reserved.