Dave Conway: Life Back on the Road

To mark the launch of this year's 'Road Safety Week' Dave Conway, Road Safety Manager, is back with another blog discussing how the global pandemic has affected road safety, and introduces a thought provoking way of approaching the topic.

I cannot believe that it has been almost a year since I contributed some words for this blog.

Mind you, it has been a very strange year for all of us, and we are only just now starting to to see some slight return to normality. In fact we are now starting to see traffic levels starting to return to pre-pandemic levels and they will stay there until there is either a change in COVID circumstances, or until there is no fuel available for anyone. I hope neither of those scenarios occurs.

The pandemic itself has had some very significant effects upon the road safety world. Not only in the way that “safety professionals” get things done, but also in the nature of the issues out on the actual roads.

The professionals have continued beavering away at trying to make the world a safer place to be via countless remote meetings… Zoom and Teams meetings have become the new normal and have managed to keep the road safety professional off the road, if nothing else!! Perhaps a good start.

I read an article the other day showing that it is now possible to have a Teams meeting going on in your car whilst you drive! Oh please Lord no!! It’s hard enough making people understand that a hands-free phone conversation is dangerously distracting without our technological experts coming up with an idea like that.
From a driving view point, a few things became apparent through the lockdown.
Firstly, when there are a lot less cars on the road there are many less crashes. There’s a benefit.

Secondly, when there are less cars on the road, the crashes are considerably more severe. Why? Because the few that are driving on empty roads are driving much faster. Proof that speed kills, if ever we needed it.

Thirdly, with the rise in home delivery services, there is now very clear cut evidence that vans are the most likely vehicle to be in a crash that results in death or serious injury.

This is something that we had suspected for several years and the change in commerce patterns have really highlighted it.

There are many factors involved, it’s not simply that van drivers are idiots.
The nature of van deliveries, typically “last-mile” service in densely populated locations on a “milk-round” basis is much more exposed to risk. It has long been known that the first and last mile of every journey account for more than 80% of crashes.

The vehicles themselves have poorer visibility and less safety features than their car equivalents.

Van drivers tend to view themselves as professionals of a different skill who just drive a van to get themselves, their colleagues, their tools and their materials to the place of work, rather than as professional drivers.

I’m very proud to have been asked to work with both Logistics UK, and National Highways, and sit on working groups to influence policy on van safety, and it is my sincere hope that we can find some meaningful advances to improve this situation. I do know that here at FM Conway, we have some technological solutions in the pipeline for our van fleet, as well as some incredible ground-breaking technology for our larger lorry fleet.

Ironically, in the past two weeks, my life has changed from 17 months of house-arrest to non-stop travelling to road safety events! Two events for Logistics UK, Van Operational Briefings in Manchester and Beaconsfield, where I hope I got the message across about van safety, and the launch of the Kent County Council VisonZero Road Safety Initiative, where we had a very large stand and display, as was fitting for one of the key contributing independent companies to the KCC policy. It is nice to be able to make a difference.

And for me, the high point of the year, at the UK Fleet Champions Awards, I had the honour of receiving the Kevin Storey Award for Outstanding Commitment to Road Safety for the organisation or individual that has gone above and beyond the call of duty in their commitment to road safety, not just within the company but also the wider community. I’m very honoured, but the award belongs to all those in the business who give their all to make driving for work as safe as possible, and for the company in supporting all my activities, to that end.