Lack of effective risk management for vans and drivers by construction firms is putting other road users at risk, according to a new investigation by National Highways, which has warned that construction companies could be ‘hugely vulnerable on van safety’.
The organisation, which is teaming up with the DVSA in October to focus on safety issues within the sector, carried out spot checks at key sites earlier this year, which showed a 40% prohibition rate among vans. There are an estimated one million vans belonging to the construction sector on UK roads.
The spot checks discovered multiple safety issues, of which the most common were:
- Insecure loads
- Broken lights
- Tyre failures
- Fuel leaks
- Missing mirrors
- Unlicensed drivers
Head of commercial vehicles at National Highways, Mark Cartwright, said: “The worrying aspect of these prohibitions is not just the illegality of the vehicles, but that they obviously had not been checked prior to use.”
Drivers’ ignorance of the law was another issue highlighted by the investigation. Drivers who did not have valid licences, or who were driving vehicles for which they were unqualified, indicated general issues in the industry with training, education, and management failings.
Mark Cartwright also said, “lack of a valid licence is not only illegal but will probably invalidate the company’s insurance.”
According to UK road data, vans have the highest rate of ‘other road user’ deaths per mile. Van drivers themselves are at risk. For every 100 crashes in 2019, three of the fatalities were van drivers, with 43 losing their lives that year.
“Driving is the single most dangerous activity these workers undertake in their day – and they do not realise that risk or how to mitigate it,” said Cartwright.
“We know that the construction and civil engineering sectors are capable of rising to this challenge because they have transformed safety on sites and in relation to HGVs,” he added. “We now need them to step up and educate all construction workers and put proper fleet safety management protocols in place.”
Companies also need to be aware that if a fatality is caused by a worker, which can then be linked to a lack of proper education or governance, management can be prosecuted under corporate manslaughter and Health & Safety legislation.
It is essential that construction companies evaluate their van fleet safety policy, to protect themselves and their employees, as well as other road users.
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