No short cuts when it comes to compliance
Why it's key to play by the ruls to safeguard businesses
Which compliance issues affect car fleets, and how do these differ to vans?
Employers have compliance requirements under a raft of legislation governing on-the-road activities including: Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999, Working Time Regulations 2005, Health Act 2006, Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 and Disability Act 2010.
They also have duties under road traffic law – Road Traffic Act and Road Vehicle (Construction and Use) Regulations – which are administered by the police and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).
While the legislation applies to all vehicles, there is currently particular enforcement activity around the number of overloaded vans on the roads and those considered by DVSA inspectors to be suffering from serious mechanical defects.
To aid fleet compliance with all legislation, managers should adhere to the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) ‘Driving at Work: Managing Work-related Road Safety’ guidance and van operators should become accredited to best practice initiatives including the Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) and the Freight Transport Association’s Van Excellence Initiative.
With regards to car compliance, vehicle condition checks are not legislative but best practice. However, prosecutions can arise in respect of cars being in an unroadworthy condition and in respect of issues such as illegal tyre tread depths and, of course, such negligence can result in crashes.
There is a raft of guidance and advice available, not only in the HSE document, but on websites, including those of the Department for Transport, Road Safety GB, Driving for Better Business and many other road safety charities and industry bodies.
The efficient management of compliance and adhering to best practice delivers a host of financial, operational, fleet administration and corporate social responsibility benefits while also ensuring that the law is obeyed and a robust audit trail maintained in the event of a crash and subsequent police/HSE investigation.
How can a fleet with vehicles and drivers nationwide keep track of them all for compliance purposes?
To ensure consistent compliance management across a company with vehicles and drivers located nationally it is imperative to have a centralised fleet management system, accessed via the web with standardised rule sets across the business.
What’s more, with the dilution of vehicle and driver management responsibility across departments in many employers – HR, procurement, payroll, finance etc – it is important that dedicated fleet management software is capable of integration with third party systems that may already be in use as well as having the capability to take data/information feeds from suppliers and liaise with systems used by the likes of the DVSA, DVLA and HMRC.
A failure to maximise system compatibility is a recipe for potential compliance disaster due to weak spots in data collection and analysis that could lead to key driver-related and vehicle maintenance issues being overlooked. Furthermore, any need for manual intervention could result in inputting errors, resulting in non compliance.
Additionally, particularly with drivers and vehicles located nationwide, it is even more important to identify potential functions that could be run on a self service basis. For example, if drivers, including employees who drive their own cars on business, have to complete mileage returns/reclaims then they might as well key it straight into the system as long as none of the checks and balances are compromised. What’s more, it is vital that daily/weekly vehicle checks are undertaken with data automatically populating the system so that service, maintenance and repair matters can immediately be actioned, while protecting the business against any huge bills that could result from a lack of intervention.
By ensuring a holistic view of all drivers and vehicles is available, time and resource saving is assured and valuable assets are maximised and not left to stand idle.
In conclusion, a software system should have a good report writer that enables data to be swiftly obtained for analysis and comprehensive report compilation for management, thus ensuring compliance.
What responsibility can a business delegate to drivers when it comes to compliance obligations, and how can it ensure drivers comply with the fleet policy?
The spectacular increase in fleet administration in recent years – which is set to continue – means that it is essential to ensure operating efficiency and up-to-date record keeping that drivers provide information on a ‘self-help’ basis, negating manual intervention.
Responsibility for drivers to provide requested information on a daily/weekly/need-to-know basis should be part of the company’s culture and included within contracts of employment, codes of conduct and job descriptions. Failure to comply should be treated as a disciplinary matter.
The requirement to provide information from a compliance perspective starts with validating all drivers’ licences.
Today eConsent, which has been approved by the DVLA, enables employers to request checking approval remotely rather than drivers having to physically complete, sign and return a paper mandate, thus aiding efficiencies.
Also, in respect of ‘grey fleet’ drivers, the information you hold regarding vehicles is no different to that of a true fleet vehicle.
Grey fleet drivers should be empowered and given the tools to easily provide and update information relating to vehicle insurance and current documentation including VED, V5, MoT and servicing.
Meanwhile, Jaama has launched its ‘My Vehicle App’ following extensive customer, technological and usability research to ensure in-life vehicle compliance.
Jaama believes that the easiest and most straightforward way for drivers to provide information in real-time is via a smartphone app. Critically the data provided increases vehicle and driver audit trail accuracy to meet duty of care regulations notably in respect of who is driving which vehicle and when – particularly important when multiple vehicles are available to different drivers.
What’s more, fleet chiefs should ensure that data/information uploaded by drivers via an app automatically updates data/information and populates records held within their asset management system used to manage vehicles and drivers.
Critical information from a compliance perspective that drivers should provide includes: daily odometer readings; prejourney vehicle condition checks triggering in-house rule sets and notification such service, maintenance and repair procedures; and at the scene crash-related information including photographs, date/time, a summary of what happened etc.
How can a fleet maintain compliance when it uses self-employed or agency drivers?
Whether employed or agency, the rules regarding drivers remain the same. Having a robust validation system deters most people with something to hide – including those who think they can cheat the system.
If drivers are genuine they will accept driver licence checks and the other in-life vehicle compliance requirements demanded by an employer. They include insurance clarification and safety checks on vehicles driven by owner/drivers – drivers should make their own inspections and best practice dictates that employers undertake random daily and weekly depot gate checks.
Against the background of the current terrorist threat, government-issued guidance also includes advice for drivers and businesses operating vehicles.
The ‘recognising the terrorist threat’ advice says that “simple precautions can make a difference” and that starts with a senior manager having “responsibility for security” and with driver licence checking.
The guidance further recommends:
- Always check a driver’s references and previous employment history and speak in person to previous employers.
- Inform applicants that false details on application forms may lead to dismissal,
- Check driving licences are valid and look for endorsements before employing, and then at six-monthly intervals afterwards. Drivers should report any changes to their licence.
- Check if the applicant has any prosecutions pending or is waiting for sentencing by a court.
- For agency drivers, ensure that the agency has carried out all of the above checks including criminal records checks.
- Use only reputable agencies that are affiliated with a recognised UK trade organisation.
The best practice advice also dictates security should be built into drivers' duties and responsibilties via employment contracts making clear failure to comply will trigger disciplinary proceedings. Further information is available on the gov.uk website.