Why businesses have a responsibility to protect vulnerable road users

Why businesses have a responsibility to protect vulnerable road users

The 2016 Fleet Safety Conference will take place Thursday 26 May 2016. One of the speakers will be Jacqueline O’Donovan, who was an award winner at the Fleet Safety Awards in 2015. Here she uses her expertise as a Managing Director of a Fleet company to talk about the responsibilities that Fleet companies have to protect all road users, especially the most vulnerable. 

This Thursday sees the return of the annual Fleet Safety Conference, where fleet managers and suppliers will come together to share best practice in managing road risk – an issue that’s very close to my heart. Unfortunately, each year, a number of London cyclists are involved in collisions with HGVs – and as a result, construction vehicles can be in the press for the wrong reasons.

As a construction firm based in and working throughout London and surrounding areas, we have a huge responsibility to ensure all road users are protected. As part of our passion to be an exemplar operator, our safety campaign this month in partnership with Brake looks at speed - a critical factor in all road crashes and casualties. The stats are quite shocking - breaking the speed limit is recorded as a contributory factor in more than one in four (27%) fatal crashes in the UK.
So this month we’re encouraging businesses to pledge to stay under limits and slow down to 20mph around schools, homes and shops – and realise their responsibilities.

The stats really do speak for themselves. It is estimated for every 1mph reduction in average speeds, crash rates fall by an average of five per cent, while lowering traffic speeds - 20mph limits especially - is known to reduce casualties and create a safer environment for vulnerable road users.

As an operator, we have a heightened responsibility to help reduce collisions on our roads – but this is an issue that goes beyond HGV operators. All businesses who manage a fleet of some kind must take responsibility – that’s the only way we will make a real difference, if we’re all pulling in the same direction.

What is key is that everyone makes road safety their priority, no matter the size of their respective operations. Large businesses may just assume - wrongly - that they have the correct safety practices covered without reviewing them regularly, while others may believe they are too small or don’t have the resource to make a difference.
We can all contribute and again, the first step is to realise the responsibility that we share. We simply cannot ignore the safety of other road users, and I’m motivated, as a Small to Medium Enterprise (SME), to set the standard and share our experiences with other small to medium-sized businesses to help promote best practice in this key area.

As a Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme Gold member we have revolutionised our fleet, with safety at the top of our agenda and at the forefront of our vision for the future. One of our most innovative additions to our ever-evolving fleet of 85 Lorries is the ground-breaking Mercedes Benz Econic 4x2 skip loader 1830L - the first skip lorry of its kind to be commercially bought and put to work in the UK. With it we’ve introduced a wide field of vision with a deep panoramic windscreen, a fully glazed floor-to-ceiling ‘bus style’ nearside door and lowered driving position which puts the driver at eye level with both cyclists and pedestrians. The glazed door also provides direct visibility of the nearside blind spot, a particularly vulnerable position for cyclists. It is this kind of innovation that is making a difference to our industry and has seen us become Construction Logistics and Cyclist Safety (CLOCS) champions.

But this is not a call to action for every fleet operator to immediately scrap their current practices and invest in new technology. We just need to recognise that we have a collective responsibility to put the safety of other road users first and act on this in a collaborative manner. Is the bandwagon against fleet operators really fair? We know the industry is doing so much fantastic work to make a difference – but we can’t get complacent.

The job has only just begun and I’m excited to see what we can achieve as a collective unit, pulling in the same direction. See you on Thursday for the start of something special.

Jacqueline O’Donovan will be presenting at the Fleet Safety Conference on Thursday 26th May, on the topic of protecting vulnerable road users.

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