Recent on-the-road incidents have left the coach and bus industry under greater scrutiny and also highlighted operators’ responsibility to keep the public safe – a responsibility emanating from whoever runs the company.
Storm Babet flooding led to more social media videos of school buses driving through deep floodwater, causing panic and potential danger. Meanwhile, the M53 crash has led to a call for greater use of seatbelts and more seatbelt controls.
While these individual cases cannot be commented upon, many more types of incident can occur on the road. Many arise because robust risk management strategies and processes are not in place, or because these processes are not fully communicated to every employee. If that is the situation, the company, individual drivers and the management team are all at risk of regulator and law enforcement action.
The starting point should be vehicle roadworthiness and the full completion of the walk-round check by every single driver using the vehicle. In winter, something that should escape nobody’s attention are the tyres. Do they have sufficient tread to cope in the worst weather conditions? They are likely to be one of the first things checked in any incident.
However, the roadworthiness check also needs to include safety measures like seatbelts. If those are in a poor state of repair, or missing entirely, that needs to be addressed. Beyond that, there should be a procedure to encourage seatbelt-wearing adherence before the journey starts.
It is essential operators use a fool-proof means of demonstrating such checks have been completed. Having a bank of evidence behind your compliance is absolutely key, should any incident occur. Showing you did all within your power to prevent it happening can make all the difference.
Bad weather, traffic accidents and other unexpected eventualities can all lead to changes of route, but it is essential drivers consider all hazards at any given time. Checking the depth of floodwater before driving through it is an obvious one. However, also knowing the dimension and weight of a vehicle and whether or not it can pass through infrastructure or narrow roads, under railway bridges, or over other bridges is essential. Never let a driver be in any doubt about the need to check this.
What many operators fail to note is that a company director, or even a manager, can be held personally liable for any risk management failures or negligence. For this reason, they should always have the back-up of directors and officers (management liability) insurance.
Furthermore, with both existing driving laws and the new offence of causing serious injury by careless or inconsiderate driving, drivers are more at risk of prosecution than ever. This is why all our clients have our new, exclusive RTC Crisis Line protection, providing instant, transport-sector specific legal expertise the minute the police are involved. Offered at both roadside and within a police station interview, this is a godsend for any driver but also for company directors and managers, who could also be hauled into proceedings.
Make risk management a priority this winter and get the right strategies and insurance protections in place. Nobody is immune from regulator action.