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October 4, 2010

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Transport and logistics – Drivers for change

There are few organisations whose work activities don’t require some of their employees to get behind the wheel of a vehicle – company-owned, or otherwise – at one point or another, so it is essential that employers have a robust driver risk-management policy in place, warns Paul Holmes.

Let’s get straight to the point: driving is the most dangerous thing you can do while at work. Although driving-related deaths and serious injuries in the workplace are not currently required to be recorded under RIDDOR 1995, the Department for Transport accepts that ‘at-work’, or occupational drivers represent some 35 per cent of the annual toll of 2200, or so deaths on UK roads.1

If that 35 per cent, or some 770 people, died in a specific occupational segment or industry, it would be deemed a national scandal and there would undoubtedly be all manner of regulations and legislation brought in in response, but not, it seems, when it comes to driving for work. Basically, if a person has an appropriate licence, he or she can drive as part of their work. That’s it. Any other action to assess or mitigate the risk associated with that activity is entirely down to the individual employer.

Some employers – particularly those in sectors where safety is an even greater priority because of the hazards associated with the manufacturing or distribution process – do take proactive steps to manage their drivers’ behaviour during work hours. However, a great many others are still failing to grasp that it simply makes good business sense to do so.

In addition to the heartache, trauma and despair felt by the friends and families of those 770 victims, there are also financial ramifications to their deaths. For example, it has been calculated that every road-related death costs UK plc £1.68 million.2 Although the average repair cost of a business vehicle following a collision is a comparatively meagre £750,3 the real cost to the employer can be between 6 and 30 times that base cost.4 This takes into account:

  •   Increased insurance costs as a result of the incident;
  •   Administrative time dealing with the incident;
  •   Loss of productivity related to the employee being absent through injury and recuperation;
  •   The effect on morale and productivity of co-workers following the incident;
  •   Costs associated with replacing the injured party, even if temporarily; and
  •   Replacement vehicle costs.

Clearly, therefore, any organisation running a vehicle fleet can potentially be wasting thousands of pounds in collision-related costs.

The start point
So, what can be done to address this situation? Many organisations, particularly smaller ones, don’t have the full picture when it comes to their vehicles and their drivers. Essentially, as an employer, you need to know who is driving what, and where they are based. You need to know vehicle registration marks and dates, insurance validity, road-fund licence status, MOT status, service and repair record details, and much more.

As with all things in business, the data needs to be accurate and kept up to date. Drivers have to be made aware that it is incumbent upon them to inform you of any changes to their driving-related status. This information is just as relevant for the so-called ‘grey fleet’ drivers, i.e. those driving their own vehicles on company business. Your duty of care applies to them every bit as much as a company vehicle driver.

Entitlement to drive
It sounds obvious, but are you confident that all your drivers have a valid driving licence? This is the most basic check that you should be carrying out as an employer but it’s not as straightforward as it used to be. With globalisation and increased mobility of the workforce, employers can have their work cut out to determine whether an unfamiliar document in a foreign language really is legal or not.

Also, thanks to Internet-based scams, there are more fake licences in circulation than ever before. In addition, it’s not enough just to check the paper part of the licence – thousands of drivers will neglect to renew the photo-card portions of their licence, rendering the entire document invalid. Hundreds of others will forget to update their home address, also falling foul of the law as a result.

In these cases, the best approach is to let the professionals handle it – either direct, via the DVLA (, through one of the specialist licence-checking agencies (e.g.,  or with the assistance of a driver risk-management provider.

Apart from the fact that your drivers have to have some guidance on what is expected of them when they are driving for business purposes the authorities, if they had cause to investigate an incident, would take a very dim view if they found that you had no duty of care-related policies in place. Examples of the type of information that needs to be contained in these policies include:

  • guidance on whether it is acceptable or not to use mobile phones while driving, even with a legal hands-free kit;
  • a clear message that drivers are responsible for the daily safety-related vehicle checks, such as tyre pressure and oil and washer reservoir levels;
  • best practice on fatigue management, speed management, dealing with bad weather, combating road rage, avoiding common crash scenarios, etc;
  • whether or not drivers can book into a hotel at their employer’s expense if they exceed the recommended daily driving hours, or mileage;
  • what the organisation’s view is on parking or speeding fines incurred; and
  • procedures to follow in the event of a collision, or breakdown.

There are various trade bodies that can help with the provision of such policies, although you may well have to become a member to take full advantage of the available resources. The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association ( and the Association of Car Fleet Operators ( are good places to start.
Don’t forget to ensure that you can demonstrate that all your drivers have been given access to the policies and that they have confirmed that they have read the information you have provided. This limits your responsibility in the event of a blameworthy crash.

Driver assessment or profiling
It is a mandatory requirement of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to carry out a “suitable and sufficient risk assessment of every risk to employees” and this includes driving for work purposes.
There are many different types and styles of risk assessment for driving – as yet, there is no standard in this area. Some are psychometric-based and some merely factual. Some include ‘attitude to risk’ scenario assessments, and some are merely jumped-up hazard perception tests – little better than the one used in the current driving test. Some are worth so little that the suppliers give them away!

Whichever one you chose, at least you’ve fulfilled the minimum legal requirement and, providing you have documentary evidence to support that, you’re halfway to doing enough to appease the authorities should there be an investigation following a serious incident involving one of your drivers. However, the better assessments not only categorise drivers into risk bands so that the highest-risk group can be identified and given the appropriate support as a priority but also propose a specific training need.

Getting the message across
Suggesting to business drivers that they need re-training can be like touching a raw nerve. For many, it’s one step short of being labelled a rubbish driver. But, in most cases, they think like this because the reason for implementing the programme was never explained properly and clearly in the first place.

It just isn’t enough to send an email saying: “A decision has been made and, like it or not, we’re doing it.” You need to spell out why you’re implementing the programme, exactly what’s involved, and how it will affect the people in your employ. You will almost certainly need to separately motivate line or departmental managers to support you, and you’ll also need the obvious backing of the chairman, CEO, or managing director. You should also conduct face-to-face meetings or workshops to get the point fully home, perhaps supported by demonstrations from a supplier. These should be backed up by dedicated information pages on a secure area of the company website or intranet, together with regular information updates in company, or departmental newsletters.

Basically, you cannot communicate enough when it comes to the sensitive subject of driving ability but, however you do it, you must emphasise that nobody is singled out, nobody is being criticised, and the benefits are both company-wide and for the individual. Driving is, after all, a life skill.

Appropriate training
The point of the driver risk assessment is to identify those who are likely to be more at risk than others, so that you can apply the most appropriate form of training to reduce that risk. This does not always need to be (relatively expensive) in-vehicle practical training. A lot of very worthwhile training can be delivered via online modules, particularly those involving multi-media, and they are invariably good value, particularly as the driver can complete the modules when and where he or she pleases.

Group workshops or seminars are also effective and represent good value on a per-head basis. The advantage here is that there is as much, if not more, interactivity as there would be in an in-vehicle situation. As with all training, the watchwords are ‘appropriate’ and ‘targeted’.

A failsafe way to ensure that you are covering all the bases and minimising the risk of corporate culpability is to go one step further and mandate that all those who drive for business purposes have to obtain a ‘Permit to Drive’, which is available from some driver risk-management suppliers. A Permit to Drive will only be issued once it has been confirmed that a driver has a legal licence, is driving a legal vehicle, is insured for appropriate business use, has carried out a risk assessment, has completed any training highlighted by that assessment, has had regular eyesight checks, and has no other health issues that might compromise his or her safety.

Proof of action
If using an external supplier to manage driver risk it makes sense to ensure that the company you choose can provide a wide range of interventions and is willing to tailor a specific programme to your needs. If practical training is likely to be one of your requirements, you should seek assurances that this will only be carried out by fully-qualified Approved Driving Instructors (ADIs), who are on the Driving Standards Agency ‘Fleet Register’. 

In addition, you should expect to receive accurate, timely and easy-to-digest data in electronic form that gives you a real-time picture of what is going on with driver assessment, training needs and training delivery. You should have easy access to information on drivers who have been risk-assessed, those identified as needing specific training, who has been trained and who is outstanding, and any comments from the instructor about individuals’ risk status following the training session.

Apart from giving you accurate information that proves the programme is being managed in accordance with your wishes, such a system is vital in demonstrating that you have an audit trail of actions that you have taken to mitigate the risk associated with running your fleet – a valuable safety net should the Police coming knocking on the door. 

The benefits of deploying a targeted driver risk-management programme

  • It will assist you in discharging your legal responsibilities towards your employees, your customers, and the other road users with whom your employees may interact while on the road;
  • It will help create an audit trail of actions that demonstrates that you have taken all reasonable steps to manage risk associated with running vehicles for your organisation. This will protect you, and other officers of the company, should proceedings be brought under several statutory instruments that relate to the management of vehicles in the workplace, such as the HSWA 1974, the MHSWR 1999, PUWER 1998, Traffic Management Act 2004, and the Road Safety Act 2006;
  • It will save you money:
  1. A reduced claims rate leads to improved insurance terms, in the form of a lower excess and slower premium rises;
  2. Trained drivers use less fuel – your annual fuel bill could shrink by up to 10 per cent following training;
  3. Defensive driver training reduces anti-social driving behaviour that can damage reputation and increase wear and tear on vehicles – the latter reduces maintenance costs and improves residual values;
  4. Fewer staff absences associated with vehicle collisions, less unproductive downtime, and no loss of business momentum.
  • It will save time – thousands of man-hours are wasted annually by staff bogged down by the administration associated with vehicle incidents and collisions;
  • Vehicles driven in a responsible way stand less chance of adversely affecting your brand’s reputation and also reduce environmental impact, thus demonstrating your commitment to corporate social responsibility.

1  See the DfT Think! campaign website –

2  IAM Trust press release issued 24 June 2010 –
3  ABI Annual Report 2005, section 4: Vehicle fleet summary –
4  Fleet Driver Training Association press release issued 25 August 2004

For impartial information and advice on the benefits of managing occupational drivers, visit

Paul Holmes is fleet director at AA DriveTech.

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13 years ago

Excellent article ! So why is it that just 26% of employers are ensuring their employees complete the course ?