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Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
November 18, 2013

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Driver safety – your questions answered

 

You submitted your driver safety questions to Simon Turner, director at Fleet 21, during the webinar last month. Here are his answers to some of the frequently asked questions.

When designing driver safety policies and procedures, you should always take legal advice from someone who understands this area of occupational safety.

 

Can you have more than one place of work?

It depends on the exact wording of your insurance policy. If someone is driving their own car, private motor insurance will usually only permit them to travel to and from their main place of work. Any more than that would require specific business insurance.

 

We select staff for driver training based on information from fleet – this misses out staff that use own cars (who could be the worse drivers) How can we assess this group of people?

Selecting people for training based on driving record is a reactive way of doing it and will generally miss out drivers who may have poor skills and concentration but just haven’t had an accident yet. An online driver risk assessment will allow you to assess all your drivers, including grey fleet, and then determine which should receive further intervention such as in-car training. Most help can be given through e-learning systems so you may find you can even reduce your bill for practical training.

 

What is the definition of Business Driving i.e. when are you legally deemed to be at work?

Most insurance companies, although there are variations, specify personal motor insurance as covering you to commute to and from your main place of work. This means any other journey in conjunction with work is a business journey – even working from a second office on Fridays. Business journeys can include driving to training courses, exhibitions, the post office, regional offices, as well as the obvious trips to see customers and suppliers.

 

We are a fully car fleet with no commercials will this be relevant to us?

Absolutely – your legal obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 cover all staff who drive on business whether or not they are in a car or a commercial vehicle. If you also operate commercial vehicles, then serious lapses when dealing with your car fleet can also have repercussions for your Operators licence.

 

Does business driver safety policy, have any impact if drivers are part time as part of their contract in educational visits?

Yes it does. If you ask anybody to make a business journey on your behalf, whether part time or full time, then you have certain duty of care obligations to meet with regard, not just to the safety of your drivers, but also other road users while they are out driving on your behalf.

 

Our H&S Policy uses the term ‘do not require employees to make or receive calls while driving’ this was taken from .gov guidance. Is this adequate protection for an organisation or do we need to prohibit their use while driving?

This may well be adequate provided the policy has been fully explained to drivers and other office staff, who may not be aware of the policy, so they don’t phone drivers from the office. Regular updates to reinforce that the company does not require drivers to make or receive calls would also be helpful.

 

Quite often a driving policy contains detailed guidance on driving behaviour, often duplicating requirements covered in the Highway Code. Why not simply state drivers are required to adhere to Highway Code and issue an up to copy of the Code – that way a Driving Policy could be very succinct?

One reason is that the driving policy may treat some issues slightly differently. For example it is legal to drive after a small amount of alcohol, or while on a hands-free phone, however many employers take a zero tolerance to both these activities. The employer may also often wish to provide more detailed guidance on certain topics.

 

I’m not familiar with the term ‘grey fleet’. Can you explain what it means?

A grey fleet driver is a member of staff who makes business journeys, on behalf of their employer, but doesn’t have their own company car. Most often they will use their own car, but they may also borrow a colleague’s company car or use a pool or hire car.

 

We don’t allowing the claiming of expenses for grey fleet until we have seen all the documents – licence, MOT and insurance – would this be seen as a sufficient check?

Providing you are able to guarantee that you are looking at the correct documents then it may be sufficient. The problem is that visual checks are so easy to get round. It is very easy to get a duplicate driving licence from DVLA.

 

Driver licensing – we have 700 employees who produce the original of their licence every 12 months. Is it ‘reasonably practicable’ to make 700 phone calls to DVLA every 12 months when we can see the original ourselves?

Unfortunately a visual check does not guarantee that you are seeing the original as it is very easy indeed to get a duplicate licence. Not only do you need to check 700 licences annually but you should also be checking those.

 

Would a employee using his own car to drive to a company meeting, about 200miles, where they are paid travelling expenses, would their normal domestic and pleasure insurance which covers driving to work be sufficient?

Most probably not. Private motor insurance will normally cover the insured driver to commute to and from their MAIN place of work only. Not only would this be a business journey, for which they would need business insurance.

 

Is driver training a requirement? (e.g. defensive driver training?) How would not doing this be looked upon in court?

The law simply states that the employer must do what is ‘reasonably practicable’ to minimise any risk. If a driver has particularly poor driving skills then driver training may be an option, but you might also look at moving them to a different role that doesn’t require driving.

 

For company cars, should we then be asking for spouses to agree to licence checks?

Ideally yes. We would view this as best practice.

 

You mention asking for details of driver competence (for grey fleet drivers). How is competence best measured?

We would recommend using an online risk assessment tool such as that offered by Fleet21. It should be remembered that grey fleet drivers are no different to company car drivers – they are making a business journey on behalf of your organisation so should assess them in the same way as company drivers.

 

Would you expect employers to check the MOT and Road Tax of personal vehicles driven on company business where the employee claims mileage allowance back?

Yes we would. If you asked an employee to make a business journey in their own car and it was in a collision due to a fault and was found not to have a valid MOT, the fact that you had not checked would count against you in court.

 

How would you define a high risk driver?

They may have points on their licence, they may have poor concentration/awareness, they may not be very confident, or any number of other things. There is no definition but that is the point of a driver risk assessment tool – it will highlight the level of risk and also show you why they are high risk so you are able to do something about it.

 

How can you identify a high risk driver using a risk assessment tool if the employee is not being fully compliant?

I think you’d have to ask why the driver isn’t willing to comply. That in itself should be ringing the alarm bells.

 

Does a business have to provide a hard copy of the driver policy to every individual, or can it be held online and made available that way?

It doesn’t necessarily need to be distributed in hard copy form but it does need to be communicated effectively to ALL drivers.

 

Does using a hands-free mobile during driving cause loss of attention?

The Transport Research Laboratory has recently released research that showed that the reaction time of the average driver is around 0.7 seconds while the reaction time of someone using a phone is 1.4 seconds for someone on a hand held phone and 1.5 seconds for someone using hands free. Reaction time is just as bad on hands-free. By comparison, average reaction time around the drink drive limit is around 1 second.

 

Should employees be made aware of Corporate Manslaughter laws?

This is probably not necessary. There hasn’t yet been a case under Corporate Manslaughter involving business drivers and the burden of proof is very high so the vast majority will continue to be brought under duty of care legislation. You should make the employee aware of the potential legal consequences to themselves should they fail to follow your safe driving procedures.

 

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Ann Barton
Ann Barton
10 years ago

I work for a national church that requires 311 members to attend an Assembly every two years. That number comprises ministers of religion (who are classed as office holders and not employees), staff,and volunteers (members of a church) – about 50% of which will drive to the Assembly using their own cars. Would they need to have ‘for business use’ insurance?

John Oram
John Oram
10 years ago

John,

This is the one that I mentioned if it’s of interest to you.

Karen Talbot
Karen Talbot
10 years ago

It is very interesting the comments above but I do think the most fundamental question is are your employees/drivers fit for work. How does a company safeguard against accidents with existing drivers which could be related to diabetes, epilepsy, mental health etc. At DHS we have failed drivers who have not passed a medical targeted at the risks of driving and therefore safeguarded potential accidents whilst driving a car.

Food for thought…..

V Harding
V Harding
10 years ago

I agree Karen, using your own or company vehicle, should be classed under the same category as plant use, and the same requirement for competences and health screening must be applied, it is, after all, a tool to carry out a task for the company.