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How can you ensure that your minibus is as safe as possible?

As scary as it sounds, almost all road collisions and crashes are either caused by or involve human error. Obviously, sometimes simple accidents happen, but it’s very important to be aware of mistakes you, or your minibus driver, might be making while on the road.

Firstly, the most obvious reason for an accident, is reckless and irresponsible driving.

This includes everything from a failure to look properly or check mirrors, failure to give way to oncoming traffic or at a junction, inattention or distraction, loss of control of the vehicle or driving at an inappropriate speed.

Staff are usually very aware of their responsibilities, and take extreme care when driving pupils, but still, accidents happen.

So as a school, it’s very important to ensure that every single minibus driver lives up to your expectations.

Your minibus driver should:

  •  Have the appropriate driving licence proving they are entitled to drive the minibus, and have taken part in practical driver training in a minibus, under the conditions they will be driving the minibus in.
  • Have taken part in initial assessments of ability to drive a minibus, and must be periodically assessed on their safety. This is even more important if they do not regularly drive a minibus, or have not done so for a long amount of time.
  • If any concern about their driving is raised, they must undergo a reassessment. This includes any motoring offence, receiving a fixed penalty or just being involved in a blameworthy collision.
  •  Understand their responsibilities. They must be fully aware that they have lives in their hands in order to ensure their full concentration on the road.
  •  Have a clean driving licence, this is at the discretion of the school, but clearly it is best that they have a clean licence.
  • Be medically fit to drive.
  • Check that their eyesight is adequate and undertake an eyesight test every 2 years.
  • Take rest breaks every two hours on long journeys, and always be well rested before driving anywhere.
  •  Where necessary, it is important to be accompanied by a second driver who is also fully qualified and meets the same conditions as the first driver.
  • Have a passenger assistant to accompany them where possible.
  •  Always carry their drivers licence with them
rain

Winter is coming

…so now is the time to be prepared for
driving your minibus in heavy rain.

Heavy rain can be one of the most dangerous conditions that you can drive in. Poor visibility and slippery surfaces can make driving difficult, and with the added challenges of driving a school minibus, it’s very important to know how to maintain the safety of your passengers.

As well as this, the adverse weather conditions can damage the inner workings of your minibus. Breakdown rates increase at this time of year, which is both annoying and expensive.

Many breakdowns are caused by driving through deep water, and as well as frustrating for staff and students, unless the driver can prove that the damage wasn’t done because of their actions, the insurance company may not pay out, which can result in a large bill.

If the damage is too severe, and whole components have to be replaced, then the time it takes to fix your minibus increases hugely.

Here is a short list of handy tips that you can do to make driving in heavy rain easier and safer.

  • Use dipped, rather than full beam headlights, and don’t use rear fog lights. This will increase your visibility to other drivers.
  • Check all lights are working effectively (particularly brake lights) before every journey, it is the drivers responsibility to do so.
  • Check condition of windscreen wiper blades and renew every 2 years.
  • Check that windscreen washer bottle is full and contains correct amount of all-weather additive.
  • Check anti-freeze levels are mantained correctly.
  • Check tyres have sufficient tread to suit conditions and are set at correct pressure as per manufacturers handbook.
  • Slow down. This sounds obvious, but you have more time to react to things the slower you are going. When visibility is poor, this becomes of paramount importance. As well as this, driving too quickly through deep water can cause massive engine failure.
  • If you do break down in torrential rain, keep the bonnet closed, so as not to do any further damage to the minibus.
  • Don’t drive through water if you can’t see how deep it is, and if you must, then keep to the highest part of the road.
  • After driving through water, test your brakes by slowly applying them, then accelerating, then applying them again. This dries the brakes, returning them to the peak level of effectiveness.
diesel

Calls for the Government to consider diesel scrappage scheme

The Environmental Audit Committee is encouraging the Government to consider a diesel scrappage scheme to tackle NO2 and CO2 pollution. They suggest that such a scheme will encourage drivers to move away from the more heavily polluting vehicles.

The scheme would provide incentives for motorists to get rid of their diesel vehicles in exchange for cleaner alternatives.

A similar scheme ran from 2009 t0 2010 and cost £400million, paying out £2,000 towards the cost of a new vehicle.

Speaking ahead of the Government’s Spending Review, Huw Irranca-Davies MP, chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee, said: “Tens of thousands of premature deaths are being caused in the UK every year by illegal levels of air pollution on our roads.

“Despite mounting evidence of the damage diesel fumes do to human health, changes to VED announced in this year’s Budget maintained the focus only on CO2 emissions. This was a missed opportunity to also incentivise vehicles which emit less NO2. The Chancellor has the chance to strike a better balance on this next week. The Treasury must use VED to create long-term incentives for drivers to buy cleaner hybrid and electric cars that minimise both CO2 and harmful pollutants.”

“Introducing a national diesel scrappage scheme could also provide a short-cut to cleaning up the air in our cities.”

safefleet - fleet safety kits

Distraction in the vehicle contributes to 2,995 car accidents in 2012.

As fleet drivers, we all understand the importance of avoiding distractions while driving. Spending more time than average on the roads in the UK, fleet drivers tend to be well aware of the risks, and are generally relatively careful.

So it may seem obvious but a new report produced by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) and the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) confirms that multi-tasking while driving is dangerous. But what’s not obvious is the reinforcement by the report, of the risks of holding a conversation on a mobile phone while driving.

The research focuses on the dangers involved when drivers try and engage in more than one task, indicating this can have a ‘detrimental’ effect on the quality and accuracy of driving performance. It seems that some drivers are perhaps not as adept at multi-tasking as some of them lead themselves to believe.

They reported that texting engages three of the five key areas of distraction to a ‘high’ level – cognitive, visual and manual. Very few fleet drivers would admit to texting while driving, but we all know that it does happen.

Interestingly a mobile phone conversation also engages three of five areas of distraction to a ‘high’ level – cognitive, audible and exposure time. Many drivers have long argued that talking on the mobile phone is no more distracting than talking to passengers. But this research seems to debunk that idea.

The findings come from a report launched this week titled ‘The battle for attention’, jointly produced by TRL researchers Dr Neale Kinnear and Dr Alan Stevens, and the IAM’s director of policy and research Neil Greig.

Dr Kinnear, who is a senior psychologist in the study of human behaviour and transport, and Dr Stevens, who is chief scientist and research director with internationally recognised expertise in ‘human-machine interaction’, both reviewed existing research behind in-car distractions to understand the various cognitive processes and complexities in driving.

Figures from the Department for Transport (DfT) in 2013 found 2,995 cases where distraction in the vehicle was listed as a contributory factor to accidents. A further 1,627 cases were listed where distraction outside the vehicle was a contributory factor.

The report says: “Research has confirmed that tasks almost always interfere with other tasks carried out at the same time. The brain never actually focuses on two tasks at the same time – it switches back and forward between them.

“As driving is so complex and requires various cognitive processes, taking on another task when driving can mean a driver is unable to pay sufficient attention to all the activities required for safe driving. This can lead to a processing failure resulting in a loss of control, putting the driver and other road users in physical danger.”

Sarah Sillars, IAM’s chief executive officer, said: “This is proof, should it be needed, that multi-tasking and driving simply don’t mix.

“Whilst there are plenty of distractions to tempt the driver, the individual needs to know that the phone, or internet, or the iPod simply don’t matter – driving is the only activity that should occupy your mind while at the wheel.

“It’s important that we work with the government, car makers and educators to deliver a renewed focus on driver training and road safety – and that people know that distractions can be fatal.”

parking

Parking spaces are getting smaller, leaving less room for us to park.

Since the 1970’s, cars have steadily been getting bigger, but the minimum required width for parking spaces has remained constant.

Popular brands such as the compact Ford Focus are 2 inches over the minimum legal limit, and many other cars have increased to the point where they cross over the white lines.

In order to fit as many cars into parking spaces as possible, car park owners are refusing to amend the legal minimum width, which is outdated, from a time when cars were smaller. This squeeze is costing motorists £500million in repairs, with even the most minor scratch sometimes costing hundreds of pounds to fix.

Car manufacturers claim that with power steering and assisted braking, parking is becoming easier, and so the widening of the cars doesn’t have any noticeable effect. But all the evidence suggests otherwise, with nearly 100 million car owners being effected. With no government incentive to exceed the minimum limit, it is difficult to see how the problem will be solved.

eyetest

Routine eye test could save your employees lives

Specsavers Corporate Eyecare has released data showing that routine eye examinations have saved 50 lives over the past year. As well as the obvious benefits to one’s vision, routine eye exams can detect early signs of various life threatening diseases including diabetes, eye cancer and various heart problems.

Whilst campaigners believe all employees should be covered, those that spend their working hours at computer screens, behind the wheel, or at PPE are the ones who are most at risk. It is a vital exam that employers should cover, but often don’t, and this could lead to dangerous illnesses further down the line.

Employers will also profit from providing these examinations early. According to research, 500,000 working days are lost each year due to heart, circulatory and blood problems. This means that, the earlier these diseases are detected, the more money employers will save.

Road Safety measures need to be taken to stop increasing death toll

Since the targets were abolished in 2010, death figures have been on the rise, and an increase in deaths and serious injuries by 4% since 2013 has urged the government to reintroduce casualty reduction targets. Although the current Conservative government states that it does not need “an arbitrary number” to prove its commitment to saving lives, it would provide a definite goal and so would therefore spur them into action on the road safety front. Neil Greig states that:

“We are clear on what needs to be done here” and that road safety targets are “an internationally recognised way of ensuring reductions are measured and achieved.”

The TTC group educates 320,000 road users each year to cut casualties tells us that:

“Every year there are more than 500 deaths and thousands of people injured driving at work.

Nearly all of these casualties are completely preventable, and the human cost for companies is incalculable. When it’s so avoidable, why does this work-related carnage continue on our roads?

The DfT statistics show that fatalities involving a van or light goods vehicle increased each year from 153 to 169, while heavy goods vehicle deaths fell from 270 to 265.

This figure is also 43% lower than a decade ago, but it is still important the operators and drivers remain vigilant about minimising harm on the UK’s roads.

Furthermore, the increase in road fatalities could partly be due to the overall increase in traffic levels, which went up 2.4% in 2014 alone. Nick Lloyd, the road safety manager at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said ‘As our economy improves, we can expect traffic levels to continue to increase, so we must do everything we can to make sure this does not lead to even more increases in road crashes and casualties.” This can be done by a range of measures, one of them being ensuring there are sufficient numbers of road police officers to enforce road safety laws, targeting the minority of drivers who put themselves and others at risk by speeding, drink diving and using mobile phones.

How does the increase of in-cab cameras effect your drivers

More motorists than ever before are recording their journey using dashboard cameras, according to RAC research. Over half of the surveyed road users were considering purchasing one, placing dash cams at the top of the Christmas car-tech wish list.

Dashboard cameras are useful because, in many minor collisions, it is difficult to prove who exactly is at fault, with insurance disputes often resting on one person’s word over another’s.

According to Lyn Hayzelden, dash cams encourages safer driving, protect against insurance fraud, and can lower your car insurance. We have spoken about Crash-for-Cash schemes before, well, dash cams provide the perfect way to protect yourself from unscrupulous road used.

But it is unfair to suggest that dashboard cameras are only useful during accidents. They can be used to report general dangerous driving, road rage incidents, and, on a lighter note, can record family holidays and unexpected wonders, which happened in Russia, with many unsuspecting road users being able to record a meteor shower.

In a trend that is the precise opposite of most technological fashions, the older drivers seem to be the most tech-savvy, with the majority of drivers who already own the cameras being over 50. Also, the study revealed that men are more likely to install a camera with women, with only 4% of women saying they owned one.

There are many options and features that need to be considered when buying a dashboard camera, but it is crucial that you get a good quality camera, that his admissible in court.

car crash

What can we learn from the USA’s Drive Safely Work Week?

With the 512 work related deaths last year, safety of our employees and customers has never been more important. The USA has similar issues and this October they have organised the National Drive Safely Work Week.

The aim is to reduce the number of incidents each year by

  • ensuring that staff are not taking part in conference calls when driving.
  • appointing road safety ambassadors within the companies.
  • giving drivers toolkits to keep in their vehicles and take home.

According to recent reports road deaths are the biggest killer of children aged 11-18, and when fleet vehicles make up such a significant proportion of the traffic, we have to take this issue seriously.

Many fleets work hard to influence their driver’s behavior, but it is clear that not everyone, particularly smaller businesses are less able, or perhaps willing to get involved.

That is why we support Brake’s Road Safety Week and will be encouraging all of our customers to do the same.

You can find out more about Brake’s Road Safety Week here.

Road Safety Week is the UK’s biggest road safety event, involving thousands of schools, organisations and community groups every year. Set up in 1997, the event is coordinated annually by Brake each November, and aims to encourage grassroots action on road safety and raise awareness about the part we can all play in preventing tragedies and making roads safer.

Road Safety Week gives everyone an opportunity to promote road safety in their community, school or workplace, as part of a big national event, and using guidance and resources from Brake. It also provides a useful focal point for road safety professionals to boost awareness and increase engagement in their work.

fleetcar

Making your fleet more economical

Running an economical fleet is beneficial, both environmentally and financially. It can save you money, as well as support your CSR objectives.

More and more of the UK’s employers are adopting new, Eco-friendly vehicles, with the Employee Benefits/Alphabet Fleet research in 2015 reporting the figure to be 54%.

If 54% of employers see the benefit of adopting Eco-friendly vehicles, its is because their employees also see the benefits.

Fleet Evolution claim that the transition to greener cars is a result of the 20-20-20 targets set by EU leaders in March 2007, with three key targets, a 20% reduction in emission, raising the percentage of energy produced by renewable sources by 20%, and making a 20% improvement in Europe’s energy efficiency.

Cars, and therefore your fleet, are a key area to target, and this transfer to greener vehicles is widely regarded as a step in the right direction, with employers taking responsibility.

Plans are in place to fast track the arrival of Eco-friendly vehicles, allowing employers to slash emissions.

Obviously you will be well aware of the most highly regarded low emission vehicles;

  • BMW i3.
  • Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion.
  • SEAT Leon Ecomotove.
  • Vauxhall Ampera.
  • MINI Cooper D.
  • Toyota Prius Plug-in.
  • BMW 116d EfficientDynamics.
  • Ford Fiesta ECOnetic.

Things are certainly changing, with electric car charging points appearing in more and more in car parks, and manufacturers constantly developing new technology.

Even Aston Martin are taking steps with the production of an 800-hp electric Rapide – which looks fantastic.

8 dealerships in California have been chosen to sell the Mirai, a salon car powered by hydrogen fuel cells, that comes with a 312 mile range.

And, in the UK, Boris Johnson confirmed the introduction of the first Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), designed to reduce most harmful vehicle exhaust pollutants by more than half. It will be implemented following a successful consultation process, with 79% in favor of improving London’s air quality. The ULEZ could see non-compliant vehicles levied with a charge of £12.50 a day.

Find out more about the new guidelines here.