Story: PETER McSEAN
Businesses who dismiss driver training do so at their own risk. There are compelling duty of care reasons for taking the issue seriously – but driver training can also make sound business sense.
Is the duty of care issue overblown? Is it only for larger firms? Hardly. On average, every six days 10 people die on UK roads while working. According to government estimates, approximately one-third of all crashes involve someone at work. That’s 7707 people seriously injured every year in road accidents while working, and a further 59,642 slightly injured, based on casualty figures for 2011.
Driver training will cut fuel and insurance costs, as well as lowering accident and injury rates
Van drivers have added risk factors – such as covering high mileage, tight schedules, heavy cargos, navigating unfamiliar areas and close-quarters manoeuvring in difficult conditions. So businesses of every size – including small and medium sized firms – need to satisfy themselves that their van drivers are fully equipped with the knowledge and ability to carry out their jobs safely.
But properly trained drivers bring business benefits, too. Appropriate use of brakes and accelerator will cut the fuel bill (and reduce emissions). Loading cargo correctly will mean fewer back injuries, less damaged cargo and safely distributed loads. Overall, the accident rate on your business van fleet should come down, which will result in lower repair costs and cheaper insurance premiums.
It also sends out a clear message to your employees, your clients, and the public at large about your company’s values – namely, that you care about your staff’s well-being, you operate to high standards and you take your responsibilities seriously.
These were factors in the decision by Kier to send 220 of its team members in North Tyneside and East Durham on a driver training course.
Kier North Tyneside carries out repair and maintenance services for North Tyneside Council’s social housing and public buildings. The firm operates 169 vans in the north-east and logs 253 hours of driving every day. So it’s a large business, but any SME van operator can learn from Kier’s experiences.
Kier’s drivers will get an NVQ in Driving Goods Vehicles at the end of their training
The company is sending 220 team members, like gas trainer Gemma Bruce (pictured), on a course that will run over the next 12 months. At the end, employees expect to gain NVQ Level 2 in Driving Goods Vehicles. They’ll be assessed at driving in a fuel-efficient manner, manoeuvring vehicles in restricted spaces, and procedures for safe loading and unloading. The course is part of Kier’s nationwide drive to ensure all of its vans are being operated safely and legally.
Kier regional director Mike Furze said: “Kier has a very visible presence on the roads of the north-east and it’s important that we and the public know that our drivers have been suitably trained, in addition to all the licence, insurance and maintenance checks we do to keep everyone safe.
“The safety and well-being of our employees is of the utmost importance and I am proud that so many of our members have taken this opportunity to learn new skills and develop safer working practices, which will benefit not only them but also the environment and local community.”
Kier’s decision illustrates how driver training can benefit a business, its employees, clients and the wider public.