Driving for work – are your employees driving you into a pothole?

driving for workWhilst driving for work is one of the most dangerous activities your employees do, driving can be equally hazardous for those flying desks back at base … if you don’t get the insurance, policies and procedures right you might be in for a big fine or even prison time if there is a death on the road. Time for a quick audit?

Did you know that … statistically, driving on business tends to be riskier than driving yourself on your own time?

Who is responsible for what?

Responsibility for road safety and driving at work is a shared one between employers and their employees. This is not an exhaustive list of responsibilities, but it will hopefully “steer” you in the right direction.

Employer Responsibilities:

The vehicle

  • If the vehicle your employee is driving is their own, you should be aware you have the same legal duty to ensure a private vehicle is safe and legal for work use, as you do for a company vehicle.
  • Ensure that all vehicles driven for work are suitable, road legal and meet minimum safety requirements.
  • Check that both company vehicles and personal vehicles used for business, are taxed and MOT’d.

The person

  • Ensure that the driver is legally entitled to drive the vehicle – check driving licences on a regular basis. You can check driving endorsements via the DVLA website, though you do need the individual’s permission to do so.
  • You must be confident that staff are fit to drive safely, so ensure that your policies include the requirement for them to inform you of health problems or medication that may affect their driving ability. Consider random drug or alcohol testing of drivers if appropriate for your business.
  • Be sure that employees are not just legal but also competent to drive the vehicle. For example, if they are driving a van for the first time or if they have been seconded and they are now driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, consider providing some form of training or familiarisation. Never ASSUME competence.

Safety and accidents

  • Ensure that there is clear guidance as to what employees should do in the event of an accident or breakdown. Check that those employees using their own vehicle have appropriate breakdown cover. You have a duty of care for their safety at work.
  • Ensure all work-related driving accidents, incidents or near misses are reported and recorded to enable lessons to be learnt. You probably have a process for this for those driving company vehicles, but do you have one for those driving their own vehicles?
  • Encourage employees to drive safely and sensibly by giving themselves plenty of time for their journey, taking regular breaks and sticking to the speed limits. Ensure that they comply with drivers’ hours, and do not place time pressures on them when they are making a journey, as this could lead to accidents or incidents. If you are aware of certain departments or managers who regularly put staff under pressure to get from A to B but turn a blind eye to that, be aware of your lack of legal defence should an accident occur.
  • Ensure that line managers and colleagues understand that they must not expect their drivers to pick up calls or messages while driving. In plain English…. stop calling your staff whilst they are driving!

The paperwork

  • You need to conduct appropriate risk assessments of your organisation’s journeys, vehicles and drivers, and put measures in place as required. Who can do this for you?
  • Produce (or review) your company driving policy and procedures and ensure that everyone understands them. (Can we do this for you?)
  • Ensure that the driver and vehicle are insured for “business use” when using their own vehicle.

Beware: if one of your employees dies while driving for work, and there is evidence of a major breach in your “duty of care”, your organisation could be at risk of being prosecuted for corporate manslaughter.

Employee Responsibilities:

Personal Obligations

  • If you receive a fine as a result of driving for work (e.g. for speeding or parking), it is your duty to pay it.
  • You must ensure that you are properly licensed to drive; and if you receive any driving penalty points, you must inform your employer.
  • You need to ensure that you are appropriately insured to drive. If it’s your own vehicle, check that your policy includes business use as well as commuting.
  • You are also responsible for the security of your vehicle – ensure that it is locked, and all valuables and confidential documentation are removed. Think Data Protection!
  • You are responsible for ensuring that any load you carry is legal and safe (even if it was loaded by another person). If you don’t know what this means, ASK!!

The vehicle

  • You are not legally responsible for ensuring that any adult passengers are wearing seat belts, but you do have a duty of care to remind them that they should be doing so. Wherever possible though, should someone refuse to wear a seat belt, do not permit them to continue as a passenger and report this issue to your Manager.
  • If it is not a company vehicle you are driving, you need to make sure that your vehicle is serviced and MOT’d according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Regularly check the tyres and oil. Regularly top up your windscreen fluid. Change bulbs as soon as you are aware one has blown. If you hear a funny noise or aware that something isn’t working properly get it checked. DO NOT continue to drive when you are aware your car is not working as it should.

The paperwork

  • You must understand and follow your Company’s driving for work policies and procedures.
  • Check when your driving licenses needs renewing…they expire every 10 years and if you can’t remember when yours last expired, check its validity!
  • If you move house then you need to notify the DVLA to update your driving license address. If you own a vehicle you will also need to send the DVLA any car ownership forms (V5) for tax purposes.

Accidents and safety

  • You need to be fit to drive, and must tell your manager if your health or medication may affect your ability to drive. If you feel uncomfortable doing this, then you must instead notify an appropriate person in HR or occupational health. Not notifying anyone is not an option given the seriousness of this.
  • You must comply with road traffic laws. The Company does not EVER give you permission to ignore road traffic laws.
  • You have a duty to plan your journeys safely, and to check that your vehicle is safe to drive before starting any journey (e.g. tyre pressures, screen wash, lights etc).
  • You must not drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If you are tired, pull over and rest – it is better to arrive late than never to arrive at all!
  • Do not use a hand-held mobile phone while driving. It is advisable to avoid using a hands-free phone as well. If you need to make, or receive, a phone call, park up somewhere safe and switch off your engine.
  • Ensure that you know what to do in the event of an accident or breakdown. This should be outlined in your Company’s driving procedures but you should also be aware of road safety, for example the AA recently issued a statement to say that they are advising their crews not to stop on smart motorways if you have broken down.

Other Considerations Whilst Auditing Driving in your Business

Strategy

  • Can business driving be reduced? Encouraging staff to share or minimise journeys, or to look for alternatives (such as video-conferencing) can save the organisation money as well as reducing the risks of accidents, and is better for the environment.
  • Go green promote eco-driving. It uses less fuel and so saves money and emissions. Did you know that driving at 80mph can use up to 25% more fuel than at 70mph? Is it time your did some research about this and then communicated your ideas to your staff? Why not involve your staff representatives with this (if you have an employee consultative committee in place)

Management

  • Mobile phones it is illegal to use hand-held mobile phones while driving, but consider whether your policy should make it clear to drivers that they must not use any mobile phone (hand-held or hands-free) while driving due to the distraction it causes and the increased risk of accidents. As a minimum, think about (and communicate) under what circumstances you consider it okay for people to take/make calls in vehicles.
  • Drugs & Alcohol – if driving or roadside work are a key part of your business, consider introducing random drugs and alcohol testing. This would require a robust policy and consultation, but may enhance the safety of your employees at work.
  • Be mindful about meeting times. If you have employees who need to drive to meetings, consider having them in the middle of the day to avoid the need to drive in rush hour or in the dark.

Safety

  • Advanced driving lessons advanced driving lessons can help reduce insurance premiums and keep employees safe on the road. Whilst often offered to only those who do thousands of miles a year on business, you might consider offering this to others such as those who have only recently passed their test, those who with age now struggle with night vision, those who aren’t used to motorway driving etc. Why not ask your staff who would value it?
  • Breakdown consider including specific guidance should an employee breakdown on a motorway (especially those without hard shoulders).
  • Adverse weather – provide staff with advice on staying safe if driving in poor conditions.
  • Vehicle familiarisation – if an employee is driving a pool or hire car, or a new company car, consider ensuring that they are familiar with the in-vehicle kit (such as sat-navs, ABS and cruise control).
  • Safe luggage do your staff know to avoid putting loose items on the dashboard, parcel shelf or passenger seats – they will become missiles in the event of a crash. Put items in the boot rather than the passenger compartment and distribute any load evenly.
  • Safe parking – Do you recommend to your staff that they park where they can easily be seen by others. Do you also advise staff to reverse into parking spaces? This is generally considered much safer.

How Jaluch can help

If your organisation doesn’t have a driving policy, or it needs to be updated we can draft a bespoke policy for you, or you can have one included (along with many other template documents) as part of our monthly support package.

For a low-cost monthly fee, you can access an unlimited HR advice line, document audits and template documents. You will have instant access to the advice and support you need, from a group of friendly, knowledgeable, fully qualified HR Consultants. We also provide ‘plain English’ updates for your HR policies, procedures and a library of standard letter templates to use with your staff. A great HR solution from a business with over 20 years experience. Sound good? Get in touch to talk through your requirements.

Check out some of the testimonials our clients have given us.

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Disclaimer: The information contained within this article is for general guidance only and represents our understanding of employment and associated law and employee relations issues as at the date of publication. Jaluch Limited, or any of its directors or employees, cannot be held responsible for any action or inaction taken in reliance upon the contents. Specific advice should be sought on all individual matters.

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