YOU might be surprised to learn that there is no specific legislation stating that the licences of those who drive for work must to be checked.
The issue needs to be addressed though, as failure to do so could result in court proceedings further down the line, under wider road traffic or health and safety laws.
The main reasons for checking licences are to comply with duty of care guidelines, recommended by groups such as the Health & Safety Executive, and to meet the terms of company car insurance policies. And it helps to cover your back in the event of any driver misdeeds.
If an unlicensed driver has an accident in a company car, the police will ask what procedures are in place for checking licences. If these are evident, the onus will be on the driver.
However, if the company cannot show evidence of regular licence checking, there could be a risk of an aiding and abetting charge.
David Faithful, consultant to Lyon Davidson Solicitors, explained: ‘The onus is always on the driver.
‘It only comes on to the employer if they are ambivalent and dishonest with how they have dealt with it.’
Responsibility for ensuring drivers comply with the company’s car insurance policy usually falls on the fleet manager.
Andy Price, practice leader for motor fleet at Zurich Risk Services, said: ‘The main reason why organisations should carry out licence checks is to control their financial risks. Unlicensed drivers will not be covered by any insurance policy, so in the event of a collision the financial liability will lie with the organisation.
‘Even when employees are using their own vehicles, if they are uninsured then any civil claim could, providing the employee was making a work-related journey at the time of the collision, end up with the organisation.’
As there are no legal requirements to check an employee’s licence, a driver could legally decline to show it. This is rare, according to David Faithful, but there are ways to combat the problem: ‘Legally, employers have no right to request licences unless it is listed in the employee’s terms of contract and the company disciplinary procedures. It is vital that licence checking is included in the contract and disciplinary process.’
Fleet managers need to prove that there is an obligation from drivers to inform them of any points on licences. This could also be used as evidence of risk management procedures and should be included in the terms of contract.
Information from licence checking agencies suggests that one in three company drivers have convictions recorded on their driving licences.
Dave Abbot, director of risk management at the RAC, said: ‘Licence checks often reveal surprises. We have found that most companies have an example of one of the following: a driver who has been disqualified, but is still driving; one who has had their licence revoked because it was not submitted for endorsement, or one who has no licence at all.’
Only by checking licences can fleet managers discover if drivers have any misdemeanours. There are several ways to do this, but most use an online system.
Manual checking is a laborious process. Not only does it take more time but also increases the administration burden. This is where the software companies are prospering.
There are hundreds of companies, ranging from risk management firms to software providers, which offer licence checking systems.
But the basic principle is the same – the system automatically reminds managers that a licence check is due at set dates, usually between six months and a year.
Fleet management software company Jaama offers licence checking as part of its FleetAssistant software.
Jason Francis, Jaama’s managing director, said: ‘By entering details about the driver, their age and experience, FleetAssistant will risk- profile the driver and routinely check their licence with the DVLA.
‘High risk drivers are identified to enable appropriate action to be taken.’
Checks all part of managing risk
MORE than 1,000 drivers and their partners have undergone licence checks at fleet management company Arval, as part of its in-house risk management programme.
The checks, completed by driver training provider DriveTech, were backed by driver training for staff deemed to be at risk.
The procedure included a driver declaration form, designed alongside a mandate asking permission for information supplied by the driver to be cross-checked with the DVLA.
Arval’s fleet manager Tracey Young said: ‘We explained to all the employees what we were doing and why we were doing it and we had no problems in gathering the information.
‘I can now identify all drivers and offences committed which may be indicative of risk.
‘In addition, when we receive notice of an intended prosecution from the police, we review the circumstances of the incident with the person concerned, liaise with the driver on the outcome and may recommend applicable training.’
Information initially requested from drivers on the declaration form includes personal details, driving licence and accident history and confirmation that their eyesight conforms to driving standards. There is also a medical section. Licence checks are now carried out annually for existing employees and immediately for new starters. In addition, Arval receives notification direct from the police of any offences committed by drivers.
As a result of the checking process, employees with five points or more on their licences who drive on business, and staff who have been involved in two blameworthy crashes in the last two years, have to complete driver training.