With ‘duty of care’ obligations and careful management of ‘at risk’ drivers as well as providing regular training, how can firms stay on top of this demanding necessity?
There’s more to being a fleet manager than many people realise and there are some onerous legal responsibilities under a firm’s legal duty of care for their employees that they also need to be aware of.
In this article we detail some of those responsibilities and give some very helpful tips on how to improve driver safety for a business.
In other articles on commercialvehicle.com, we will detail how telematics can not only improve a firm’s performance and profitability but how software can boost the safety of a firm’s drivers and other road users by monitoring how they drive on a daily basis. Telematics will flag up issues around speeding and harsh braking, for instance.
Use telematics for fleet safety
Managing the risk for a firm’s drivers is an area that is becoming increasingly important and indeed the Department for Transport says that around 25% of all road traffic incidents involve an employed driver.
The government department points out that health and safety law applies to any work activities on the road and that these activities and risks need to be managed as part of a firm’s health and safety arrangements.
As part of its risk management strategy, a fleet manager should be looking to implement a system that will lead to fewer injuries to their drivers, reduce the risk of work related ill-health and help improve morale and reduce stress.
Legal rules for running a fleet of vehicles
However, the same legalities do not apply to people commuting to work from their home unless they are travelling to a location that is not their usual workplace.
In a bid to meet this demand, big firms are looking at implementing regular driver training; for instance, Centrica has more than 10,000 engineers racking up more than 342 million kilometres every year in the course of their business.
The firm realises that with such a high mileage figure that road accidents are one of the main safety risks to their drivers.
Centrica says it has a road safety policy which puts safety at the centre of everything they do so, for instance, using a mobile phone when driving is against their company policy.
How to reduce a firm’s road accident rate
The firm also trains drivers when they need to change their type of vehicle.
Since 2010, the firm has seen a 48% drop in the number of road incidents being recorded by their drivers. In addition, in 2013, 4,800 employees undertook driver safety training.
Indeed, for all businesses, driver safety training should be an important part of the fleet manager’s role.
Whether the drivers are sales staff or delivery workers, they should understand and appreciate their safety obligations.
Any company that employs more than five people should have a published driving policy and a risk assessment for its staff which should cover all of the potential hazards that drivers may face.
Implement a written risk assessment
In addition to having a written risk assessment, all firms should ask their employees to undertake an assessment to measure the risk being posed to them and other road users.
Firms should also have a robust driver policy which lays out, in plain English, the standard of behaviour that is expected of drivers undertaking business duties.
This type of driver training policy will also help protect an employer since it will also stipulate to the employee that they should understand and respect traffic laws and make clear their responsibilities for vehicle maintenance.
Tips on business driving safety
These are some other useful tips on business driving safety from commercialvehicle.com:
- In our view, it’s pointless having a policy on driver safety unless the driver knows what it is and what their obligations are. A good start is to have a handbook in each vehicle so that when the employee needs information, it is at hand.
- It is vital that a business checks their employee’s driver’s license – this can be done against the DVLA database. One survey found that around 25,000 business drivers do not have the correct licence which means they will not be insured while on the road which could lead to major problems should they have an accident.
- Risk assessments should also be carried out on a regular basis, particularly for high risk drivers who drive many miles a year. These assessments will help prevent expensive accidents.
- Don’t be fooled into thinking that a firm needs to undertake expensive education programmes since there are some very good e-learning programs around which will highlight any weakness for a driver, such as their being easily distracted.
Some firms may find they will need to engage a professional firm to carry out in-car training to monitor driver behaviour and improve driving skills.
In addition, there’s also a sizeable number of company drivers that go unnoticed by many firms when considering health and safety risks for business drivers.
Problems with ‘grey fleet’ drivers
And that’s the so-called grey fleet which covers those people who use their own car for business purposes. Generally, their insurance will cover them to and from a place of work but they will need specific cover if travelling to meetings, training courses or exhibitions.
Indeed, it’s this grey fleet that should give most businesses a reason to be very concerned.
The RAC says there are around three times the number of cars in the grey fleets than there are business cars in the UK.
A spokesman said: “By tackling the grey fleet challenge head-on, a business could save money and meet their duty of care responsibilities no matter the size of the business.”
The RAC highlights that a business should know whether their employee is properly insured or licensed – a big question when they estimate around 4 million vehicles are used for ad hoc business appointments.
Duty of care problems for fleet managers
So while having a grey fleet enables a business to have a cost-effective and flexible fleet available, it also offers a number of complex issues that the business does not control.
The RAC spokesman added: “When a staff member drives for a business appointment in their car, they’re actually in the firm’s duty of care.”
This means that health and safety legislation applies equally to those employees making work-related trips regardless of who owns the vehicle they are in.
This also means that fleet managers will have to prove that these grey fleet vehicles come under the same safety policies and risk assessments as their normal company vehicles do.
Eye tests and free tools for running a vehicle fleet
Another issue that goes unnoticed is that firms should insist that drivers have regular eye tests. According to the eyecare firm Specsavers, around a third of business drivers would fail an eye test and around 40% haven’t had an eye test for at least two years.
While large firms with big fleets to run may find the issue of implementing their legal obligations relatively easy, that might not be the same for small and medium-size businesses.
The road safety charity Brake offers small firms practical tools that are easy to implement and could possibly save lives.
They also offer a number of free resources, including a guide on how a small business can implement fleet safety and how to manage road risk.
Everyone, drivers and fleet managers alike, should appreciate that while our roads become ever busier with more vehicles, our roads are becoming safer.
The number of KSI on UK’s roads falls
The DfT has revealed that the number of people killed on roads in the UK is now at its lowest level since 1926 when records began.
In addition, the number of people who are seriously injured on our roads is also in decline though the numbers of people being hurt on motorways is rising.
This is no reason for complacency however and there’s no doubt that the introduction of safety procedures by many firms has had an impact.
Dave Richards, of AADriveTech said fleet managers should welcome the figures and be aware of the rise in injuries on motorways, the first time there’s been an increase since 2005.
He added: “The reasons for this rise are not clear yet and the motorways are statistically our safest roads, it is food for thought for those involved in driver training.”
The risk to employees has been recognised by the government which says that the cost to employers is around £2.7billion a year for employees involved in road smashes.
Risks to employees who drive regularly
There’s no doubt that in preventing crashes and scrapes, a business can benefit financially through lower insurance premiums, improved staff morale and have a better reputation on the roads. There’s also a question of reducing greatly lost time through dealing with accidents and injuries.
Now small and medium-sized firms can avoid the costly effects of crashes by using a series of free webinars, resources and events which have been launched by Brake.
Supported by the Department for Transport, they will raise awareness of the risks that come with driving for work, and the employer’s responsibility in managing those risks and how they can be managed effectively on a budget.
Ellie Pearson, who is responsible for professional engagement at the charity, said: “It’s vital for businesses with staff who drive for work to manage this risk as it is the most dangerous thing many people do at work.
“Ensuring the safety of any staff who drive for work will also deliver significant business benefits but we know small and medium firms face challenges in addressing this issue and these events and tools will give simple tried and tested steps firms can take.”
The Health and Safety Executive has a very useful document called ‘Driving at Work – Managing work-related road safety‘.
The road safety charity Brake also provides some very useful information for professional drivers and their employers.