Wiltshire Council puts drivers' safety first with Fleet Support Group's 'permit to drive' programme

Wiltshire Council has launched a safe-driving scheme that could eventually be targeted at up to 5,000 employees who drive their own vehicles on work-related journeys. The Council has launched a six-month pilot scheme, which sees 250 randomly selected employees enrolled onto Fleet Support Group multi award-winning web-enabled RiskMaster programme. The pilot will run through to the end of March 2011 and if deemed a success will result in all 4,500 to 5,000 full-time and part-time-staff, volunteers and agency workers who drive their own vehicles on Council business - the so-called 'grey' fleet - enrolled onto RiskMaster. Management of public sector 'grey' fleets has been in the spotlight with a report from the Office of Government Commerce, now part of the recently established Efficiency and Reform Group within the Cabinet Office, calling on council's to review the use of staff driving their vehicles on business trips.

Wiltshire Council is firmly focused on meeting its duty of care obligations so ensuring it has an efficient and effective health and safety policies and procedures in place is essential. In the eyes of the law, employers are responsible for the health and safety of their at-work drivers irrespective of who owns the car. Therefore, the same occupational road risk management policies that govern company car and van fleets apply to 'grey' fleets.  Wiltshire Council was created on April 1, 2009 by four district councils - Kennet District Council, North Wiltshire District Council, Salisbury District Council and West Wiltshire District Council - and Wiltshire County Council coming together to form a unitary authority.
Simon Dale, Fleet Project Leader, said: "Council management was asking questions about the checks carried out on employees who drove their own cars on Council business. It was clear that prior to the creation of Wiltshire Council some of the authorities undertook driving licence and other checks, but others did not. Even within the same authority the standard of checks varied. With such a varying degree of due diligence it was clear that Wiltshire Council required a common policy with a common set of rules to ensure best practice compliance."
The Council went out to tender and identified 10 suppliers with the potential to become partners in a major pilot scheme to bring 'grey' fleet drivers into line with best practice. Ultimately, the Council chose to introduce FSG's RiskMaster programme.
RiskMaster is a web-enabled, all-embracing at-work driving safety initiative that managers vehicles, drivers and journeys to enable employers to reduce their risk exposure. At the core of the RiskMaster 'toolbox' is a Driver Operating Life Report, which embraces individual 'Permits to Drive' that are issued to all employees once they meet key criteria laid down by their employer on enrolment in the system. Mr Dale said: "While a valid driving licence proves that an employee has passed their driving test we thought it was important to issue our own 'Permit to Drive' to staff to show they meet our own driving standards criteria. FSG had a track record in delivering safe driving solutions in both the public and private sectors and was realistic about helping the Council in its task."
Mr Dale said: "Sign-up is compulsory and we have support from the Council Chief Executive and Council Leader. Introduction of the system is about improving employee welfare, ensuring the Council meets its duty of care responsibilities and making the roads safer for everyone. Compliance with the law is the real focus, but through that will come reduced staff absenteeism as we believe they will be driving more safely, improved staff welfare and increased productivity and efficiency."
Wiltshire Council Chief Executive Andrew Kerr said: "Wiltshire Council is committed to ensuring the health and safety of its employees and as such it takes responsibilities relating to work-related road safety very seriously. In order to achieve this we need to have one consistent policy to safeguard our drivers. It is the Council's intention that by demonstrating such leadership through the implementation of the RiskMaster safe-driving programme we will encourage other organisations, particularly our contractors, to implement similar safety policies as well."
Geoffrey Bray, Chairman of FSG, which is headquartered in the Wiltshire town of Chippenham, said: "Our 'Permit to Drive' system is a continuing appraisal of an at-work driver's approach, attitude and performance in general driving. Evidence from our RiskMaster users suggests that 'Permit to Drive' provides major safety benefits; financial savings; demonstrates social responsibility towards other road users; and a legally-recognised audit trail. With the implementation of RiskMaster, the Council views driver safety not as a cost but as an investment. Legislation is increasingly impacting on at-work drivers so employers have a significant responsibility to manage them effectively."

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