Company car and van drivers could be stripped of their licence within hours if they fail a roadside eyesight test.
Fleet managers are being advised to give everyone who drives a company vehicle regular eyesight tests following the introduction of tougher legislation.
The police were officially given enhanced powers to take immediate action against any motorist who fails a roadside eye test on February 7.
Any driver stopped by police who is unable to read a licence plate at a distance of 20 metres will now have their driving licence stripped within a matter of hours.
Although there is currently no specific legal requirement for a business to ensure that its drivers comply with minimum sight requirements, companies are being encouraged to introduce regular eye tests to prove duty of care.
Previously, motorists whose eyesight was found to be defective were able to continue driving for several days until their licence was officially revoked through the post by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).
Officers can now email their request to have a licence stripped straight to the DVLA from the roadside using a smartphone or other hand-held device.
The DVLA can then email back a formal revocation notice to the nearest police station which can be printed out and delivered to the offending driver that same day.
The licence will not be returned until a driver can demonstrate that their eyesight meets the required standards.
Ian Gallagher, the Freight Transport Association’s (FTA) policy manager for driver licence and vehicle registration, said: “This change in legislation makes sense – it’s covering a gap in what existed.
“My impression is that businesses generally are already taking their responsibilities very seriously when it comes to ensuring that their employees can see properly.
“It’s too early to say whether companies will introduce processes to test eyesight as a result of this change in legislation.
“There is a quick and easy way for companies to check whether a driver can see correctly – take them outside and carry out a quick 20 metre test. That’s exactly the same test that the police carry out.”
The DVLA has worked closely with the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) to introduce the new legislation – called “Cassie’s law” – to deal with these roadside eyesight test failures more quickly.
More than 45,000 people signed a petition asking the Government to streamline the procedure following the death of Cassie McCord in February last year. The 16-year-old was killed by an 87-year-old driver in Colchester, Essex, three days after he refused to surrender his licence despite failing a roadside eye test.
Suzanne Randall, corporate account manager for Specsavers Corporate Eyecare, said that the new legislation should prompt all fleet managers to ensure their drivers are fit to be behind the wheel.
She said: “All employers have a duty of care for their employees and this extends to staff driving during the course of their work.
“Consequently, it’s important that employers ensure that their staff are fit to drive.
“Implementing eye care policies has never been easier and the cost is often much less than employers realise.
“Eyesight requirements for driving are quite specific, including having good peripheral vision and the ability to refocus between near and far objects. So it’s important that thorough eye tests are carried out regularly for drivers – either every two years or as often as recommended by the individual’s ophthalmologist.
“Eyesight can deteriorate over time without people noticing, particularly among the over-40s, so we urge all motorists to get regular eye tests.”
Randall added that introducing eye tests can also bring direct benefits in reducing insurance premiums.
One of Specsavers Corporate Eyecare’s clients is Hull-based retailer Kingsdown Furniture which introduced eye examinations for all its drivers as part of its extended duty of care programme.
This programme has resulted in its insurance company reducing its proposed premium increase by 9%.
Mike Morland, Kingstown Furniture’s health, safety and environment manager, said: “Our duty is to ensure that our employees are safe and this includes our drivers who cover thousands of miles. It is an added bonus that our extended duty of care programme has also saved a significant amount on our insurance premiums .”