Managing risk when on the road

18 October 2017

There is a great deal of attention given to health and safety in the workplace, quite rightly. However, the same cannot be said when it comes to driving. Motor risk management is not seen as a priority; indeed, it can be seriously lacking in some organisations.

There is a very different approach to health and safety in the workplace such as an office or factory than to people driving while working, despite health and safety regulations also applying to motor activity.

From a legal perspective, employers have a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure that on the road activities are safe and compliant. But, with driving for work, it can sometimes be a case of 'out of sight, out of mind'.

Unfortunately, when employees are out on the road, they are not treated in the same way as, for example, someone operating a piece of machinery in the workplace.

The risks are clearly there.

If someone is spending more than 80 per cent of their time driving for work, they are over 50 per cent more likely to have an injury. And there are considerable financial costs associated with motor risks, many of them hidden, such as vehicles being out of action, employees off work, deliveries or meetings missed and reputational damage, not to mention a potential cost in terms of fines.

To improve their risk profile and reduce costs, organisations need to change the culture throughout the company, from the top down. It requires a complete buy-in from all levels of the company to enable a cultural change that means motor accidents are not acceptable and the issue is addressed in a proactive way.

Risk management in construction

The construction industry is a good example of positive cultural change in the area of risk management. The sector is very heavily regulated, especially in Central London, with strict rules as to what construction vehicles can and can’t do from a safety perspective. For example, if construction vehicles do not meet certain standards, then they are not allowed into Central London. Therefore regulation has been the catalyst to drive cultural change, with many positive initiatives being introduced as a result.

More than 90 per cent of motor claims and incidents are down to human error. Generally, that is not down to a lack of training, but to distraction, attitude or behaviour. Training can help with these but it is more about awareness, the culture of the company and the drivers.

All of this requires a collaborative effort between the fleet/transport manager, the risk manager and human resources, because motor risk management and health and safety can sometimes fall outside of a person’s remit or management abilities.

The trouble with tech

Technology is set to dramatically change motor risk management with telematics, in-vehicle cameras and ultimately autonomous vehicles.

With human error playing such a major role in incidents, autonomous vehicles should, theoretically, dramatically reduce the number of accidents.

What we currently have is a mixed bag of technology, and some companies are very good at utilising that, making the most out of it, identifying problems and bringing in solutions. Unfortunately there are too many who ‘fit and forget’ and, at the end of the day, data is only data unless you do something with it.

The challenge in motor risk management is the transitional period between early stages of technology and semi-autonomous vehicles, to fully autonomous vehicles. There will be a combination of different capabilities out on the road, which could mean interesting challenges.

For further information, please contact Steve Vachre, Motor Specialist on +44 161 957 8034 or email