Bringing new drivers on to your fleet is a risky business.
You don’t know them, you don’t know their past and you don’t know how they drive.
So it’s vital that you establish their competency and background before they are let out on the road.
Nobody knows this better than Nick Laister, managing director of car transportation firm nkl automotive.
His firm moves 4,000 cars and light commercial vehicles around the UK every month and his drivers cover more than eight million miles a year.
With driving at the core of the business, nkl needs to be absolutely sure that those behind the wheel are adept at their jobs.
Consequently, the firm has a thorough and robust set of policies in place to ensure job applicants are suitable.
The way nkl brings new employees on board has been recognised as an example of fleet safety.
Last year it was awarded the fleet safety award by road safety charity Brake, and it has also been named as a road safety business champion by the Department for Transport.
“The trade plate industry has had a particularly tarnished reputation with little or no regulation for many years,” Mr Laister says.
“You still see drivers thumbing lifts at the side of the road, and that’s a very dangerous place to be.
“We don’t allow our drivers to thumb a lift.
"They get around the country by using public transport and if it isn’t available we would use hire cars.
“This is not rocket science –these methods are effective and meet our duty-of-care obligations to our employees and other road users.”
But before the drivers are let loose, they undergo a rigorous selection process.
“Potential drivers complete an application form, which includes a medical questionnaire,” Mr Laister says.
“We want to know if they have particular problems so we can monitor what kind of work we put people on.
"The eyesight test, particularly, is very important – we have had to send quite a lot of people to get glasses before they can go on to the next stage.”
Potential recruits are also subjected to driving licence checks and have a face-to-face interview with a senior member of staff.
Assuming they pass all the initial checks, hopeful candidates attend an induction day where they are given a more specific assessment.
Their customer service skills are assessed and enhanced and they are given vehicle inspection instruction.
Their licences are checked at yearly intervals if they have up to six points, and more often if they have more.
“Each candidate undergoes an on-road driving to assess their ability and their road risk rating,” says Mr Laister.
“Those who complete the introduction day are given an nkl handbook and the latest edition of the Highway Code.
"A copy of the nkl road risk management policy is also issued.”
“New drivers have to spend two days a week with more experienced drivers to get a full introduction into our ways of working.
"Any additional training needs are identified and will be supplied.
“We will always endeavour to make sure all drivers meet our exacting standards,” he says.
“New drivers represent a considerable investment and only 22% of those that make initial contact with us continue through to full employment.”
Those that do have access to duty officers 24 hours a day, in case they have any problems.
“Only 3% of drivers on the road generally have received any training since passing their test, according to the Department for Transport,” Mr Laister says.
“This is deplorably low. Vehicle selection and maintenance is an important part of road risk and it’s something we have no control over.
"We place a lot of emphasis on training and pre-drive testing to make sure that only venture on to the road in a vehicle that’s safe.”
Refresher courses are run for every driver at least once every two years – more for high-risk drivers.
And there are other, more unusual ways of imparting road safety messages to drivers.
“We have an electronic Highway Code facts board running in the drivers’ room 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Mr Laister says.
“It features topical information about driving and safe driving procedures. It just keeps the message alive.
"These messages are changed frequently to keep them appropriate.
“We have had 100% of our drivers through training and it’s now starting to happen commercially, after two years.
"The last at-fault accident was more than 16 months ago – a record we are immensely proud of.”