Almost four in five (78%) managers encourage drivers to report health problems or concerns, demonstrating awareness that health issues can impact on safety, a new survey suggests.
However, far fewer employers take proactive steps to address this issue, with only two in five (42%) reviewing schedules and workloads to identify areas that can cause stress or tiredness.
The survey, carried out by the road safety charity Brake and the Licence Bureau, suggests some employers are failing to deal with health issues affecting their drivers.
This is especially worrying when conditions such as sleep apnoea, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and many other common health problems can affect an employee’s ability to drive safely.
Les Owen, of the Licence Bureau, told Fleet News: “If all employers acted positively, one step at a time, it would make a big difference to road safety, result in fewer collisions, and benefit many businesses’ bottom line.”
Good mental health is also important for safe driving. For example, research has linked stress with risky driving and increased crash rates.
However, only one in five (21%) employers hold confidential meetings to allow drivers to discuss health concerns that may affect driving.
It therefore falls on drivers to take the initiative in flagging up health or well-being concerns.
Brake suggests that holding confidential meetings with drivers, at least annually, to allow them to discuss any health or other concerns sends a clear message that an organisation cares about the safety and well-being of its staff.
It will also help identify issues with drivers who may not feel comfortable coming forward unprompted with concerns.
Education around certain conditions is also crucial, yet, for example, only one in three (34%) managers educate drivers on sleep apnoea.
Around one in 10 (12%) provide annual health checks that cover the symptoms, and just 8% train supervisors to watch out for signs.
More than a quarter (26%) said they refer suspected sufferers for assessment and treatment, but without training drivers or supervisors on the symptoms, or providing health checks, it is unclear how suspected sufferers are identified.
Drivers are also unlikely to realise the importance of reporting concerns about their health or stress levels if they do not understand the impact this has on safety.
Fleet managers should therefore educate drivers on how stress, tiredness and health can affect their driving.
This should be made clear to drivers when they are first hired, explained in the driver handbook, and reinforced through confidential wellbeing meetings.
Drivers should not bear sole responsibility for ensuring they are fit to drive, says Brake.
Workplace pressures, including busy or unrealistic driver schedules, are known to contribute to driver stress and tiredness.
Managers should therefore regularly review schedules and workloads to ensure drivers are not placed under undue pressure.
Owen added: “Companies have a responsibility to manage the at-work safety of staff who drive just as much as staff performing construction, electrical, engineering or other duties.”