Fleet managers should encourage their drivers to sign safety pledges before the Corporate Manslaughter Act comes into force next year.
A number of large companies, including BT and Wolseley, have already asked their drivers to sign such documents, showing they have been through a driver training programme and agree to abide by the rules of the road and drive sensibly.
While driver pledges are primarily designed to help engage drivers during the training process, they also offer a double benefit by providing legal protection to organisations in the event of a health and safety investigation.
Solicitor and ACFO regional secretary Philip Somarakis advised fleets to implement safety pledges with health and safety and corporate manslaughter in mind.
“Companies need to think more carefully about what their drivers are doing on the roads and getting them to sign something is a good idea,” he said.
“The pledges are legally binding in the sense of being evidence that a fleet manager has acted in a diligent way towards his drivers.”
The pledges are not get-out clauses, absolving employers of their duty-of-care responsibilities should a company find itself under scrutiny.
However, they do serve as evidence, in the eyes of the law, that a company has put a particular driver through training and done its best to honour those same duty-of-care obligations.
Dr Will Murray, research director at Interactive Driving Systems, said: “Companies implement the pledges as it engages drivers, as well as hammering home company policy.
“Also, the lawyers really like it because it does give companies some protection.”
Garry Hind, sales manager at Drive Tech driver training, thinks fleet managers should adopt the pledges, but stresses that full driver support is essential.
“It has to be done in the right way so you’re not holding a gun to the head of your driver and forcing them to sign it. What you want is voluntary accountability,” he said.
David Wallington, group safety adviser at BT, has overseen nearly 40,000 employees sign the pledges and sees their primary function as one of improving education and driver buy-in, leaving legal issues as an afterthought.
“They’re about engaging with your drivers and encouraging health and safety compliance, rather than seeking any legal protection,” he said.
Template pledges are supplied by road safety charity Brake, while training provider Interactive Driving Systems generates them in line with a company’s existing policy.