Fleet News

Special feature: why it’s your duty to care

Legislation that already exists puts a clear onus on employers to protect their staff. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, for example, states that an employer has two duties:

  • ‘to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees’
  • ‘to conduct an undertaking in such a way as to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in the company’s employment who may be affected by it are not thereby exposed to risks to their health and safety’.

    Therefore if your business is running a fleet of vans, those two statements make it pretty clear that you have a duty to look after your drivers on the road and make sure they don’t injure anyone else who happens to be using those roads at the time.

    The latest group to add its collective muscle to the health and safety forum is the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), which launched a new booklet, ‘The BVRLA Guide To Driving At Work’ at the CV Show in Birmingham in March.

    The booklet stretches to no more than 28 pages, but forms a handy starting point for any van operator who hasn’t given the subject a second thought so far.

    It is split into three sections – vehicles, drivers and journeys – and at the rear are several checksheets which can also be downloaded in pdf format from the BVRLA’s website.

    The booklet has the backing of the then transport minister David Jamieson, who said: ‘Some employers seem to think it is sufficient that their employees’ vehicles hold a current MoT and the driver is properly licensed and obeys all traffic laws and regulations. This is not so.

    ‘Health and safety applies equally to on-the-road work activities as it does to the conventional workplace and proper evaluation of risk should be undertaken. The best way to do this is to manage road risk as part of a company’s health and safety management process.’

    One popular misconception is that launching a risk management programme will cost a lot of money. Sure there will be a cash layout, but what must be taken into consideration is how much will be saved as a result of a fleet having fewer crashes.

    The guide lists a whole host of benefits:

  • A potential reduction in insurance premiums of at least 15% depending on previous claims records. At present some premiums are rising at around 20-30% annually.
  • Fuel consumption improvements of at least 7%
  • Reductions of at least 5% in wear and tear on tyres, brakes, clutches etc
  • Improved vehicle value if a trained driver uses a vehicle
  • Improved business performance
  • Fewer accidents
  • Less paperwork
  • Less lost time
  • Fewer missed orders
  • Improved public image

    Looked at in this light, a health and safety programme starts to make more sense.

    Here we present some of the highlights of the guide’s three sections:

    Vehicles

    VEHICLES must be suitable and safe for employees and the type of business trips they are expected to undertake.

    All vehicles must be properly maintained to an acceptable and safe standard. There should be systems in place to ensure that all the planned maintenance has been carried out and documented.

    For example, has the driver been advised to check the oil level and tyre pressures and does he/she know how to carry out these checks?

    Drivers may be asked to complete a daily or weekly check log which can be kept in the vehicle ready for inspection.

    Employees should be provided with guidance on how to ensure that the maximum load weight for the vehicle is not exceeded. Any goods and equipment to be carried in the vehicle should also by properly secured.

    Employees need to be aware of the advice and support employers offer in the event of a breakdown and know how to get help if a problem arises.

    You will want to ensure that the incident was not a roadworthiness related matter. If it was, you will want to take steps to avoid similar situations from occurring in the future.

    Drivers

    YOU should ascertain whether your drivers have a valid licence to drive the vehicles. Special care should be taken to ensure the driver holds the appropriate class of licence, for example heavy goods vehicles, minibuses etc. Driving licences can be checked with the DVLA, provided that consent is gained from the employee under the Data Protection Act.

    It is not enough to simply carry out this validation at the time of recruitment. Regular checks are needed as a driver may subsequently be disqualified.

    It is advisable to check the licence of anyone who could be driving a company vehicle, eg a spouse or grown-up offspring. Checks should be made on an annual basis as a minimum.

    Drivers should know how to adjust seat and head restraints to find a safe and ergonomically sound driving position. If they carry loads, they need to be able to restrain and distribute them properly in the load area. You should ensure that your drivers, through a process of self-declaration, confirm that they are fit to drive. This should include confirmation that their eyesight meets the legal requirements outlined in the Highway Code.

    Many companies provide eye tests for employees who use computers regularly. A similar policy for those employees who drive regularly could be introduced.

    You should aim to ensure that employees do not drive a vehicle – whether on or off duty – in an unfit state due to the influence of alcohol or drugs or any other substances likely to impair driving. You should make it clear to them that such behaviour is unacceptable and against company policy.

    Employees taking medicines or prescribed drugs under the direction of their GP should be instructed to notify their immediate line manager.

    Driver training, in conjunction with other risk management solutions, can improve work road safety. Training programmes are normally conducted both in the classroom and in the company vehicle. The aim is to educate these drivers on how to improve their knowledge of road safety matters and minimise their exposure to risk and road accidents.

    They should be seen as complementary to your existing company measures aimed at improving work safety. You may wish to develop a selection process to help identify employees who would obtain the greatest benefits, or to put it another way, those employees who pose the greatest risk, such as high mileage drivers or those who have a high number of endorsements.

    You may also find it useful to review accident and insurance statistics to help you identify individuals or groups of staff who should attend these programmes.

    Employers should also provide advice on safe speeds, distraction, vehicle checks, journey planning and incident procedures. Recent Government research shows that falling asleep at the wheel could be a factor in 10% of all accidents and 20% of collisions on motorways.

    Worst times for falling asleep are on long monotonous journeys, between 2am and 6am, between 2pm and 4pm and on journeys home from night shifts.

    There is no specific legal guidance as to how many hours the driver of a van up to 3.5 tonnes gvw should drive without taking a break. However, the Highway Code recommends 15 minutes for every two hours on the road.

    Employers should ensure a clear policy is made to all drivers on company business with regard to mobile phones. Employers can be prosecuted for ‘causing or permitting’ the offence of using a hand-held phone.

    Drivers should be expected to report all road incidents while on business travel within 24 hours of the incident. Employers should, as a matter of course, keep details of all vehicle accidents and where appropriate carry out an investigation in order to establish the factors that led to the incident. This will enable the company to identify and correct operational weaknesses.

    Journeys

    IF you provide schedules for your drivers or make it a requirement that they create their own, it is important to consider the following:

  • Number of journeys
  • Journey length
  • Road types
  • Potential traffic conditions
  • Weather conditions

    You may want to set a maximum driving distance per day, per week, per month and per year. This can be supported by policies that allow employees to take overnight stops or ensure driving can be shared. Employers should provide drivers with tools to assist them with their planning. These could include route-planning software, maps and the RoSPA guide.

    The road type should also be considered when planning a journey. Accident rates are lowest on motorways and dual carriageways. Hazards that need to be taken into account include roadworks, accident blackspots, traffic density and high-risk features including schools or busy shopping centres.

    Employers should also consider what advice they want to give drivers about weather conditions.

  • Copies of The BVRLA Guide To Driving At Work can be ordered on the website: www.bvrla.co.uk. Alternatively, call 01494 434747, fax: 01494 434499 or email: info@bvrla.co.uk
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