Over the last decade, the collision rate for vehicles operated by Gateshead Council in the UK has halved — even though more robust monitoring procedures have been introduced. This was made possible because we have managed to change driver and departmental mindsets despite major budget cuts and without the need to acquire expensive technologies.
Gateshead Council shares its work in presentations and events around the country, including at Brake events. This includes running occupational road risk initiatives such as a driving assessment programme and continual risk assessment of fleet drivers (including intervention where necessary). A programme of education includes guidance and training for individuals on subjects such as safe loads, towing trailers and fitness to drive. We have a philosophy of constantly reminding drivers and refreshing information. Training and engagement initiatives have included young driver groups and community events such as HGV/cycle safety demonstrations at local supermarkets.
In the last year, 50 managers have attended O-Licence Awareness training. More than 2,000 driving assessments have also been carried out and, following the intake of a new housing contract, we have recently conducted induction training for 250 new drivers. Gateshead Council has also achieved FTA Van Excellence accreditation and ISO4001 accreditation. To support our drivers, we have created a toolkit to support employees with mental health issues, including establishment of mental health first aiders.
Gateshead Council has adopted a comprehensive Travel Plan to reduce grey fleet car mileage and encourage/facilitate alternative modes of travel for work journeys. Council employees are provided with opportunities for cycle hire and facilities for cyclists including electric bikes, and a pool car scheme, including more than 20 electric and low-emission vehicles. Almost 140,000 grey fleet miles have been saved through the scheme.
Employees also receive:
- information on traffic flow around Gateshead and efficient routes of travel;
- testimonies from employees on experiences of changing travel habits (and opportunities for car sharing);
- free public transport travel for business journeys;
- subsidised public transport for commuters;
- guidance on walking around the borough; and
- promotion of agile working through home working and the use of smart technology.
Within the past year, we have added Nissan NV200 electric vans to the fleet as direct replacements for diesel-powered vehicles, and more electric cars have been purchased. All waste and recycling HGVs are now also fitted with Bartec route optimisation technology to reduce mileage (vehicles only operate on four-day-a-week rounds). Other recent improvements to the fleet include the replacement of 36 HGVs with Euro 6 equivalents. This work, in addition to the installation of tracking units to over 300 other goods vehicles and utilisation of Lightfoot monitoring, is supplemented with education for drivers on fuel efficient and defensive driving.