Case Study - Gateshead Council


Company Name: Gateshead Council
Business Sector: Local Government
Postal Address: Transport Services, Central Depot, Park Road, Gateshead
Postcode: NE 8 3HN
Fleet Size Overall:


Company Cars: None
Private vehicles used for business purposes:  

Company Overview

Gateshead Council’s services are delivered through five groups as shown below:

  • Community Based Services;
  • Development and Enterprise;
  • Learning and Children;
  • Local Environmental Services;
  • Central Services.

Within each of the five groups are a number of services, each run by a Head of Service who takes responsibility for the day to day running of the service and the management of employees. Gateshead Council’s Local and Environmental Services provides services to the general public, such as refuse collection and disposal, recycling, street cleaning, street lighting, highways maintenance, road gritting, housing repairs, parks and playing field maintenance. It also operates the Council's transport fleet.

Nature of Operation and Driving Activities

Gateshead Council is involved in a diverse range of operations, utilising a wide range of vehicles. This includes:

  • Construction (various tippers, vans and trailers);
  • Refuse Collection (HGVs, recycling vehicles);
  • Highways maintenance/street lighting (towers, tippers);
  • Gritting (HGVs)
  • Community Based Services Minibus operations (various minibuses);
  • Home to School transport.

Organisational Structure

The fleet maintenance team is responsible for the Council’s Operators licence and also in-house maintenance provision .The service also delivers an in-house driver training programme. Vehicle procurement is carried out by the service on behalf of the various departments listed above.

Work Related Road Safety Policy and Procedures

Over the past few years a policy has been implemented that facilitates change and better ‘manages occupational road risk’. The Council undertook a global review of methods currently adopted and constructed an action plan that considered the initial vehicle purchase through to end of life disposal. This includes:

  • Vehicle acquisition;
  • Repair and maintenance;
  • Tyre selection;
  • Driver assessment and training;
  • Customer care;
  • Environmental performance and journey planning;
  • Speed limiting.

Gateshead Council considers Occupational Road Risk to be the joint responsibility of employer and employees. We aim to provide and maintain a safe and healthy working environment for all employees and to provide the information, instruction, training and supervision required for this purpose. Policy statements include the following:

  • Speeding;
  • Alcohol and Drugs;
  • Breakdown and Emergency Assistance;
  • Carriage of Passengers/Goods;
  • Towing and loading;
  • Conviction/ Penalty Points/ Disciplinary Procedures;
  • Driver Assessment and Training;
  • Driver Selection;
  • Driver fatigue/illness;
  • Incident data recording, analysis and auditing;
  • Licence checks;
  • Vehicle maintenance;
  • Mobile Phones;
  • ‘No blame’ incident reporting culture;
  • Vehicle operation.

Gateshead Council policy states that all drivers are legally responsible for their own actions whilst driving and adhering to all traffic regulations. All employees are considered to be ambassadors for the Council.

Drivers who use their own vehicles for Council business must ensure their vehicle is insured for business use, has a valid tax disc and a current MOT certificate as well as servicing at the recommended intervals.

All Gateshead Council employees must successfully complete a Council Driver Assessment before operating a Council vehicle. Assessments are carried out by one of 6 IAM trained assessors. The scheme began in 2006 and following the initial session, drivers are subject to further annual checks and assessment. The assessment process covers the following:

  1. Driver Licence checks.
  2. Eyesight check.
  3. A 45-minute practical driving session. The driver is assessed according to 15 criteria (including observation, use of mirrors, use of speed, road positioning, separation distance and manoeuvring). Drivers are also required to demonstrate daily vehicle checking and completion of driving records. A driver should always be assessed in the highest class of vehicle they will operate.
  4. Drivers are supplied with other information, including safe driving tips, fuel-efficient driving tips and the Highway Code. A road safety DVD is also shown.

Following the assessment, feedback regarding performance is sent to Line Managers and includes any comments made by the assessors. The assessment programme is constantly under review with the aim to continually refresh the information provided and implement improvements. Feedback questionnaires are periodically used to gain views and comments from drivers. Any driver found to be at fault in an accident or guilty of a road traffic offence must go through the assessment process.

Drivers new to Gateshead Council must complete an extended driving induction. Assessors carry out an interactive demonstration encompassing procedures including daily vehicle checking, completion of daily log sheets, fuelling of vehicles, defect reporting and accidents. Spending time one to one with the assessor is an effective way of familiarising the driver both with the vehicle and any Council procedures. The fact that assessments are carried out within the Transport Services depot helps drivers to understand the service being provided.

Results of the driver assessment form part of the information used to risk assess each individual driver. Accident records are also monitored as well as driving offences/endorsements. If a driver is regarded to be a high risk, then appropriate action is taken (in some cases external training is provided).

Work Related Road Safety Guidance for drivers

Work Related Road Safety Guidance is contained within the Driver’s Handbook, which is issued to drivers each time they undergo an assessment. At this stage, other publications or materials may also be issued.

The Driver’s Handbook includes sections on:

  1. Transport Management.
  2. Authorisation to drive.
  3. Legal Responsibilities.
  4. Care and Maintenance of Vehicles.
  5. Environment and Fuel Efficiency.
  6. Loading of Vehicles.
  7. Wearing of Seat Belts.
  8. Vehicle Accidents.
  9. Drivers’ Hours.
  10. Other Responsibilities including etiquette.
  11. Mobile Phones.

The handbook is reviewed regularly and whenever there is an update all drivers across the fleet are supplied with a new document. Posters and leaflets are displayed in all depots and Council buildings. Information includes warnings with regard to speed, tiredness and drink driving as well as guidance on daily vehicle checking etc. The Transport Service ensures there are regular driving items in departmental briefing agendas, the monthly Council magazine and global Council emails.

It is important to constantly review and update all information passed to employees. Responsibilities/procedural/safety information should be constantly reinforced and repeated if necessary. Whenever there is a change to procedures or any aspect of operational road risk, toolbox talks are created and communicated to drivers by Line Managers. Drivers must sign to say they understand the information provided.

Specific examples of procedures

All drivers must carry out daily checks of the vehicle before operating. Procedures are demonstrated at the driver’s induction and then are reinforced constantly. It is important that any instruction is tailored specifically to the driver’s individual vehicle, as the Council fleet contains a variety of different vehicles containing different specialised equipment.

The completion of daily vehicle log records is another requirement. All journeys must be accounted for and authorised by Line Managers. Individual user departments are responsible for driver record keeping and the Transport Office carry out random monthly audits, checking that all required information is satisfactorily completed. The procedure is demonstrated at a driver’s induction and then the driver must show evidence of completed log sheets at future assessments.

Gateshead Council have recently developed a Health & Safety Compliance Procedure. Employees can be issued with non-compliance notices if they are found to be in breach of health & safety rules. This includes breaches with regard to driving/vehicles. The system is designed to highlight bad practice and at the same time educate employees.

Gateshead Council runs special briefing sessions for employee drivers who are under 24 years old. These sessions highlight the risks faced by young drivers, with the main aim of the programme being to create road safety awareness. The Driving Standards Agency is also invited into sessions to present information on the Arrive Alive scheme.

In addition, Gateshead Council has an outreach programme to visit users of local authority minibuses to ensure that knowledge of loading, seat restraints and passenger assistance is continually improved. A Number of Gateshead employees have been trained to provide Passenger Assistance Training, carrying out 3-day courses for both Council drivers and external contractors.

Auditing and review

The very nature of transport operations and legislation means that information and procedures require constant monitoring and review. The Driving Assessment scheme is constantly reviewed through regular meetings between Council Assessors and Transport Office staff.

Performance measures

Fuel Consumption levels are monitored across the fleet. Computer reports can highlight high usage of fuel or poor MPG. Accident data is continually appraised, trends identified and remedial action taken.

Data with regard to driver assessments is continually monitored. Problems can be identified relating to certain types of vehicles or specific user departments. Poor performance in driving assessments can indicate that information is not getting through or communication is poor. Collation of information with regard to vehicle standards and cleanliness is helpful in identifying departments where communication needs to be improved.

A number of measures regarding accidents allow the Transport department to identify trends. Information such as cause of accident, journey details, road type and location is always recorded.

Accident reduction

Gateshead Council monitors its accident rate constantly. It operates a “No Blame” road safety culture enabling all road safety incidents to be reported without fear of penalty. It encourages its drivers to report incidents accurately using a clear accident report form. In instances where the Council is not at fault, we actively seek costs from the 3rd party for damage to Council vehicles. It is important to make drivers aware that this is happening. Following every accident, a full investigation is carried out including an interview with the driver.

A number of factors have led to a near 30% decrease in fleet accidents over the past 3 years. Contributing to this have been our driver assessment/training initiatives, better driver communication and improved vehicle safety features (all new vehicles over a certain size are fitted with 56mph speed limiters).

Lessons learned

Gateshead Council maintains an active policy of drawing on best practice for information on Work Related Road Safety and disseminating it through its management processes. It is actively engaging with local and national road safety organisations.

When implementing road risk policies, Gateshead has found that to reap real benefits, all aspects of transport must be tackled. To focus on driver competency and attitudes alone is not enough. Every aspect relating to the provision, management and use of transport was examined. In order to change driver culture it was necessary to proactively engage with service users and produce a complete customer care package, including driver training, accident management, MPG performance, internal/external cleanliness of vehicles and vehicle abuse/misuse. Drivers must have confidence in the policy and managers at all levels must be fully behind schemes and programmes.

Current and future developments

Present systems within ORR will be constantly re-appraised .The Council will be vigilant to changes in legislation and new and emerging technologies, so that we are best placed to ensure a safe working environment for our employees and the general public.

Additional information

Gateshead Council has received the following awards:

  • Shine Award 2008 – Green Award Winner – Transport Improvements - Sharing Best Practice in the North East.
  • Brake Fleet Safety Forum 2008 – Company Driver.
  • Brake Fleet Safety Forum 2007 – Road Risk Manager of the Year Public Sector (Mr Graham Telfer).
  • Brake Fleet Safety Forum 2007 – Safe Vehicle Maintenance.
  • Brake Fleet Safety Forum 2007 – Company Driver Safety Award.
  • Green Fleet Awards 2007 – Public Sector Fleet of the Year.
  • Energy Saving Trust – Winner – Fleet Hero Awards 2006 – Overall Winner.
  • Energy Saving Trust – Winner – Fleet Hero Awards 2006 (Public Sector over 250 vehicles).

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