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Fleet News Debates: Looking out for drivers with eyesight problems

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Experts suggest around four million motorists do not meet the legal eyesight requirement of reading a numberplate at 20.5 meters (see Fleet News, February 16-29). So should companies be doing more to ensure their drivers have adequate eyesight? What does a comprehensive driver eyesight policy entail?

Jo Hammonds, fleet manager, Mears Group: We don’t have a standalone eyesight policy, but our driver policy makes reference to being legal on the road and adhering to the Highway Code.

It also states that drivers must tell us if anything affects their ability to drive. We check all driving licences every six months and as part of that check our regional fleet managers take a random sample of five to 10 people and test if they can read the numberplate of a parked car from the legal distance.

Paul Green, group transport manager, Selwood: We have a requirement for “adequate eyesight” in our driver/vehicle policies, but I am currently updating our policies and will be including a two-year eyesight check requirement, in line with opticians’ recommendations.

We also have fields in our driver database to populate with these eyesight check dates, but it will be a bit of a task to get drivers to prove they have had their eyesight test done, and how we enforce it will be another task that needs careful handling.

Martin Howard, Brake: A company policy on eyesight testing should include: a definition of the standards of an eyesight test, in line with those recommended by the International Council of Ophthalmology (ICO); a full eyesight test in line with ICO standards for all new drivers before they start work; compulsory eyesight tests for all drivers at least once every two years, increasing frequency to once every year for drivers over 50; identifying high-risk drivers who require more frequent testing (for example, a driver with a history of glaucoma in their family); requiring supervisors to ask a driver’s opinion of their eyesight when talking to them.

Organisations need to decide what will work best for them: a corporate eyecare arrangement through an optician or requiring drivers to provide proof of an independent eye test.

Why should companies have driver eyesight policies?

Jo Hammonds: We put the spot checks in place two or three years ago as part of a general tightening up of policy.

We wanted to have more checks on driver behaviour and things that are the driver’s responsibility.

Companies should have policies in place to protect themselves although the driver still has the responsibility to let the business know if they are unsafe to drive.

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