Become a professional driver and you're more likely to die on the roads. It sounds harsh but, behind the cheerful image of the white van man, the facts are that company vehicle drivers account for a third of all road deaths, according to Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) figures released in February.

It has also been found that driver training can reduce accident rates by an average of 30% or more.

Norwich Union Insurance (NU) has made a move to reduce these high figures of road death with its new initiative Roadsense, which forms a part of its fleet product Fleetwise.

NU's fleet and motor trade product manager Ian Greenwood says the new programme includes a team of risk advisers who will devise development programmes, theory and practical training for fleet managers.

The Roadsense programme has a dedicated website, with a fleet manager's guide and material that can be printed off to be used in the workplace.

It also offers advice on legal issues, vehicle security and an exclusive partnership with RAC Risk Management, through which fleet managers can get preferential rates on risk management training aids, a tailor-made safety and economy seminar, a interactive driver training CD-Rom and driver training safety courses.

Combining ideas
Greenwood says both NU and CGU had been working on similar ideas for fleets before their merger in May last year. Although the plans got pushed to one side during the tumultuous merger period, Greenwood said they were dusted off last November and revamped into Roadsense and Fleetwise.

"Both companies had the same thinking and approach, but CGU's was more advanced so we took the best of both," he says.

He says the product and programme had attracted a lot of enquiries from brokers and the fleet trade press, but was bound to face competition from driver training companies as they moved away from training only and into risk management.

However, Greenwood believes his project has the edge on the market for now.

"Unlike other initiatives, which are solely designed to cut costs, Roadsense enables fleet managers to take a more comprehensive approach," he says.

"Within the next 12 months, 50% of company vehicles will be involved in a road accident and the true cost of an accident is many times more than the cost of repairing a vehicle, (but) through Roadsense we can deliver a real value-added service to our customers by helping them to manage their risk."

RAC fleet safety head Wayne Gardner says companies are under increasing pressure from government initiatives to reduce the number of work-related road accidents.

He says that the introduction of a comprehensive risk management programme would pay immediate dividends in terms of bringing down accident figures and the associated costs.