Volvo Car UK's fleet division has teamed up with Ultimate Car Control to offer a unique training programme for company car drivers.
Ultimate Car Control has spent five and a half years developing its Excellence in Professional Driving (EPD) programme in a bid to create a scheme that fleets can use to meet their legal obligations and protect employees that use their cars for business purposes.
Drivers taking part in the one-day courses will use Volvo vehicles, selected specifically for the manufacturer's expertise in vehicle safety and new technology that helps drivers avoid accidents on the road.
Robb Gravett, a former British Touring Car Champion and founder of Ultimate Car Control, said: "As a company, we are very excited to be associated with Volvo, as their focus on safety fits so well with our company's principles."
"However, even with all the safety features that Volvo builds into its cars, effective driver training is essential in the overall quest to reduce the number of road accidents, hence why we have developed the EPD programme."
Organisations are now legally obliged under Health & Safety legislation and Duty of Care requirements to develop company policies that protect employees using their car for work purposes. Driver training therefore has become highly sought after, but all too often, says Robb, programmes are developed to meet the basic requirements of the law, rather than focusing on the needs of individual drivers.
"When we started developing EPD, we did a lot of research into the sector and found that there was no established standard for existing courses. They had no reproducibility and took no account of the different skills and aptitudes of individual drivers. In short, many were just a box ticking exercise; a token effort by companies to meet their legal obligations.
"To me, that simply wasn't good enough - after all, this is people's lives and their safety that we are talking about and I wanted to change the way driver training was provided. Today, EPD is the only fully legally compliant driver training programme available, and it's also the only programme that licenses each individual driver."
Organisations putting drivers through the scheme have already reported successful results - with one organisation witnessing a 47% drop in accidents among its drivers following participation in the course and a 37% drop in insurance premiums meaning that the course can become self-funding.
The one-day course is split into two sessions - the first, a classroom-based session covering topics like hazard perception, the effects of drugs and alcohol on drivers, as well as finding out how vehicle safety systems such as anti-lock brakes actually work. The second part is dynamic driver training, where participants learn how a car behaves in extreme situations and what a driver can do to keep control.
Robb added: "A classic example is when you're driving along a motorway and another vehicle pulls out in front of you - how do you react? We can reproduce this type of scenario in safe conditions and show drivers how the car will behave if you suddenly swerve out of the way, and what they can do to avoid an accident."
For the three years following the initial course, drivers receive additional guidance in the form of 'memory updates' from Ultimate Car Control and four online risk assessments to refresh their skills and also to highlight any possible areas of concern to the employer. They also receive email alerts, for example in winter when the snow comes, reminding them of the dangers of black ice and where it is most likely to be encountered.
Volvo is providing the training vehicles to Ultimate Car Control for the programme and is also putting its own employees through the scheme.Published 1 December 2010