by Malcolm Maycock, Licence Bureau
Before you implement a regular licence checking and overall compliance schedule for your fleet, it’s vital to establish who does and does not drive within your business, ensuring they are all aware of what defines ‘driving at work’.
Should you have an incident and it has been demonstrated that you have not taken the reasonable steps to ensure the driver’s safety, the financial and legal repercussions could severely impact your business. Ignorance towards the matter or force majeure is no longer an excuse.
Under Duty of Care guidelines – and the Health and Safety Executive’s INDG382 ‘Driving at Work’ document – all employers have an obligation to ensure Work Related Road Safety (WRRS) criteria is met.
Carrying out an audit of every single employee on the books, regardless of their position in the company, is the only way to ensure that the health, safety and welfare of your employees is looked after and you are compliant. Otherwise, how are you supposed to know that your staff aren’t being put at risk by the work activities of others?
An audit of all employees will establish:
· Which employees drive for work
· What vehicles and specialist equipment they operate
· Understanding of internal policies and documents
· Highway code knowledge
· General health and wellbeing
· Incident history
In all organisations, auditing employees regularly is critical due to the frequency of employees leaving, starting and changing job roles. You shouldn’t only be establishing who drives what type of vehicle, but how many drivers and non-drivers are in your organisation. Every business has a headline headcount, yet the same is rarely known for those who drive. The audit should help to align these figures.
It’s important to remember that driving at work encompasses everything individuals do outside of their commute from home to a single place of employment. Whether they are an occasional driver, driving an HGV to the same destination every day or simply travelling to the shops on behalf of your organisation.
This also raises the problem of employees using their own vehicles on business, commonly known as Grey Fleet.
It’s crucial to ensure each employee, regardless of whether they drive on business or not, have read and understood your company policy, which includes your driving handbook, using a mobile phone, smoking, fatigue, general wellbeing and eyesight.
Fleets should also add bespoke questions and documents for any specialist equipment/vehicles that they may operate, per the specific requirements of each employee in every area of the business. Non-driving questions can also be added, if they are linked to the employee’s role in the business.
Other aspects, such as the exact routes that employees regularly drive on can be assessed. Do these routes pose a particular risk for drivers, dependent on road conditions, the time of day and their general health?
Having access to ‘Big Data’ and correctly acting upon that information, can empower businesses to make incremental changes that can make a big difference, in terms of overall safety of the fleet.
The results of the audit should be visible to the Fleet Manager, so any area which is considered a business risk can be identified immediately and acted upon. This will also allow you to assess whether any employees have signed a medical document to state they cannot drive on work.
Should a non-driver have to drive for business purposes, issuing an audit to ensure they’ve understood current company policy on the above areas will not only guide them on internal procedures and policies, but demonstrate the steps the company has taken to ensure they do not pose a safety risk to themselves or others. If they do not possess a driving licence, it also gives them the power to decline driving on business before the question is asked of them.
This also applies to younger employees who hold a driving licence, yet who may not drive a vehicle of their own. Do they know basic Highway Code rules, even if they lack experience? Ensuring they remain up-to-date with the relevant company policy provides them with clear guidance should they need to drive on business.
The audit is also an opportunity to remind all drivers – especially older employees – of the ever-changing Highway Code and rules of the road. This places emphasis on internal driver handbooks being frequently updated with new laws. For example, do your policies reflect the 2017 change in penalty points and a fine for using your mobile phone behind the wheel?
Only when the above has been established should you proceed with regularly scheduling further audits for drivers and non-drivers, and carrying out additional tasks such as licence checking. It’s the only way to ensure your employees remain compliant and legal when they drive on company business – before they get behind the wheel.