Employers are updating or changing company policy since the regulations came into force last year prohibiting the use of mobile phones while driving.
Royal Mail Group and its operating companies – Royal Mail, Parcelforce Worldwide and the Post Office – has one of the largest vehicle fleets in the country, comprising more than 30,000 vans and lorries and 3,600 company cars.
The vehicle fleet clocks up an average of 1.6 million road miles a day, nearly 600 million miles a year. Improving employee safety while driving is a key priority for the organisation.
Road transport legislation banning the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving has been fully welcomed by Royal Mail. We endorse the new legislation and it has been enshrined in company policy. But we are also advising employees that using hands-free equipment could increase the risk of accidents. Employees are being encouraged not to make or receive any telephone calls while at the wheel.
Royal Mail’s policy guidelines say that hand-held phones must be switched off when the vehicle is moving, and answer phone, voicemail or another messaging service used instead. Hands-free phones should also be used only for incoming calls while driving. They should never be used to make outgoing calls.
Employees are advised to call in regularly to pick up messages and to make pre-arranged calls to the office to pick up non-urgent messages. Mobile phones must be switched off at filling stations, too, as there have been incidents where mobile phones have ignited petrol fumes when being answered or ringing.
Research by the Harvard Centre for Risk Analysis shows there are some alarming statistics about the effect on concentration and braking distances when using mobile phones. The research found that drivers talking on the phone are less able to maintain a constant speed, and find it hard to keep a safe distance from the car in front. This makes it more dangerous for them to be in charge of a vehicle. And it is largely why the Government has made changes to the law.
Royal Mail’s policy has been communicated to 200,000 employees via its intranet, an electronic newsletter, team briefings and the employee newspaper, Courier.
If employees break the law, the Royal Mail has disciplinary procedures that can be implemented. My job is to keep Royal Mail employees safe, not enforce the law. But if an employee is involved in a road traffic accident and the use of a hand-held mobile phone is found to be a contributory factor, we will investigate whether any disciplinary action is appropriate. Royal Mail employees are also liable for any fines they incur.
HR director, Securicor
We have more than 5,000 drivers in the UK, across Securicor’s three main businesses – Cash Services, Security Services and Justice Services. The majority of these have access to hands-free kits in vehicles.
Before the legislation, Securicor had a stringent policy on mobile phone use in company vehicles. Most of our fleet is fitted with hands-free kits and the remaining are being fitted with them. From 1 December 2003, all new vehicles were automatically fitted with the appropriate kit.
It is because of this that Securicor has not had to change its HR policies in line with the new legislation. But we have re-enforced our health and safety policy, which includes the importance of responsible mobile phone use in company vehicles.
Head of health, safety and environment, British Gas
For many years British Gas has been fitting hands-free kits in company cars and vans where the user has had a mobile phone. All 6,000 of our engineers’ vans are delivered with a hands-free kit and the most of our company car users have hands-free kits.
We have extended the fitting of hands-free kits into employee-owned vehicles if there is a need for the individual to be contacted while driving. We supply earpieces to people on request but we have made it clear that these are not an acceptable substitute for a properly installed hands-free kit and we will not supply them for that use.
We have reinforced issues around the use of phones in vehicles, encouraging people to avoid dialling out and using the automatic answer features.
Shared services director, Ceridian Centrefile
More than 25 per cent of our staff are home-based as they spend most of their time with clients or in meetings across the country.
Mobile phones are therefore a fundamental part of their business toolkit. However, we recognise the need for safety on the road and so for many years have funded the supply and installation of a hands-free facility for all employees who regularly use their cars on business.
We stress that even using a hands-free phone is likely to distract a driver’s mind. Our drivers are encouraged to stop at a convenient location in order to return calls and should end all received calls quickly. Drivers should also make appropriate use of messaging and divert facilities
Head of HR, the Spirit Group
All of our company car users – more than 230 – are provided with hands-free car kits. Our company car policy also advises the use of voice dialling while driving.
We have reissued our company car policy and mobile phone policy to all users. In addition, any new employees will be fully briefed on their obligations under the law and will be provided with a hands-free car kit if they have use of a company mobile phone. Employees who have their own cars and use of a company mobile have also been offered a hands-free car kit.
We have made every effort to inform our team of changes to legislation and so we will not be liable for fines or penalties that are incurred following inappropriate use of a mobile phone when driving.