12th December 2016

Telematics’ role in aiding fleet managers to comply with tightening safety laws

Six-figure fines are now the minimum recommended penalty for organisations convicted of corporate manslaughter, after the Ministry of Justice introduced tough new sentencing guidelines in February 2016, increasing the onus on the UK’s fleet managers and other organisations using vehicles.

For the last decade, the Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act 20071 along with the Health & Safety (Offences) Act 2008 have loomed over those responsible for professional drivers and employees with company cars; but driving as a work activity also encompasses occasional drivers, anyone using a privately-owned grey fleet vehicle, contractors and the self-employed.

In December 2015, marking the UK’s highest fine under corporate manslaughter legislation, Baldwins Crane Hire Ltd was fined £700,000 and ordered to pay £200,000 in costs after one of its crane operators lost their life and it was subsequently found that the vehicle’s brakes were substandard2.

The new guidelines ushered in two months later mean that fines will now be commensurate with an organisation’s turnover, revenue above £50 million exposing a firm to a fine of up to £10 million, whilst those generating less than £2 million can receive a maximum fine of £450,000. Under the new rules3, the crane hire company could have been fined £4 million, while in general terms the person(s) judged responsible for driving deaths could face up to two years in prison, leaving some health and safety, HR and fleet managers feeling increasingly concerned.

Dismissing any responsibility over a journey that could perhaps be perceived as irrelevant such as driving to an awards dinner or dropping paperwork off at a client’s premises on the way into the office is misdirected, as such journeys are very much covered by present legislation – but it’s fair to say that not all organisations are as fastidious in their duties as others.

As reported by WhatVan? Magazine, Mark Cartwright, head of the FTA’s Van Excellence scheme, highlighted the importance of fleet managers acting on telematics evidence and taking action to improve a driver’s safety, otherwise they could be found culpable. “Fleets should adopt a national standard because if they don’t and something goes badly wrong they will be held responsible”, he commented.

In addition to the more obvious checks such a driver’s insurance, road tax and the presence of a valid MoT certificate if the vehicle’s age exceeds 3 years, managers of fleets, however small, need to keep an increasingly tight rein on the safety and suitability of all the vehicles their organisations use. This is more straightforward with company cars which are typically newer and fitted with at least one ADAS system, such as autonomous emergency braking or lane departure warning. Grey fleet vehicles make the task more challenging, and driver competence, behaviour and fatigue are also essential facets for fleet managers to monitor and act on if necessary.

This is where telematics really comes to the fore, allowing HR, fleet managers or other persons responsible for vehicles being driven for work purposes to identity if any of their people have been driving erratically, dangerously or simply for too many hours in a typical day or week, endangering themselves and others. Again, telematics is slightly more straightforward with company cars and vans as an organisation could simply choose to make such technology mandatory, but owners of private grey fleet vehicles are typically more reluctant to have telematics boxes fitted and often raise privacy concerns that their personal journeys will also be monitored.

Appy Fleet from Trak Global removes both of these perceived hurdles from the equation as the telematics data is recorded solely using a smartphone app and doesn’t require any hardware to be installed in the vehicle. Additionally, private mode allows a driver to switch the app off during personal journeys, protecting their privacy. Priced at £4/month per vehicle, the cost barrier is also removed and Appy Fleet can be scaled quickly to meet a fleet’s changing size and needs.

With increased attention paid to people’s health and safety whilst driving for work, the introduction of a national standard for work vehicle safety, the adoption of telematics and increased education from those responsible for employees’ safety, it’s hoped that the new legislation will act as a deterrent and not be called upon any time soon.


1 http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg382.pdf

2 https://www.dwf.law/news-events/legal-updates/2016/01/highest-fine-for-corporate-manslaughter-ahead-of-new-sentencing-guidelines/

3 http://www.fleetnews.co.uk/news/company-car-tax-and-legislation/2015/07/27/first-driving-case-under-corporate-manslaughter

4 http://www.whatvan.co.uk/reasons-to-be-safe-and-compliant