Driving for Work Part One (Who’s Driving?)
Q: Who’s driving to tomorrow’s training meeting?
A: The employee whose car has the most petrol.
B: The employee who volunteers.
C: The employee that has had his/her licence checked and has suitable insurance.
Let’s clear things up, “driving for work” is NOT exclusive to employees such as vocational drivers or those for whom driving is an integral part of a job role, such as a sales rep.
In fact, driving for work happens more frequently than you’d think, and is often overlooked in respect of carrying out the necessary checks on drivers and vehicles.
We come across many organisations who are carrying out all the necessary checks on their ‘fleet drivers’; the roles where driving is an essential part of their job, or where they drive a company (or fleet) vehicle. However, those employees that drive infrequently, or for very short distances, generally fall under the radar and it’s these employees that leave organisations wide open to occupational road risk related claims or sanctions.
What counts as “driving for work”
There are plenty of driving instances that fall under the umbrella of “driving for work”. To put it simply, if the reason for a journey is work-related (excluding commuting to and from your workplace), it is classed as driving for work. Those workers for whom driving is a primary part of their role will already understand aspects such as taking appropriate breaks and managing driving hours. But what about office-based employees where driving isn’t part of their main duties?
Some examples of driving for work are outlined below:
- For meetings with clients and customers
- For work-related appointments
- Running errands
- Going to and from events
- Commuting to a location that is not the typical place of work
Has Debbie from accounts who drives to the bank every week had her driving licence checked recently? When was the last time Derek had his licence checked before attending an exhibition? If you’re unclear when a driving licence check last took place, it is likely that your checks are not frequent enough.
Why is “driving for work” significant?
Naturally, an employer has a legal obligation to maintain the health and safety of their employees as part of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974. It states you must ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of all employees while at work.
Employers should ensure that staff are appropriately qualified to drive and that the vehicle being driven is reasonably suitable and safe for the intended use. Employers must also ensure that others are not put at risk by work-related driving activities. To give some context, imagine a scenario where an employee who is driving for work has a collision with a member of the public which results in serious injury, or worse, death. If the driver had recently had his/her licence suspended or revoked, or was driving a vehicle that his/her licence didn’t permit, this may suggest that the employer hadn’t carried out the necessary driver checks and is responsible in part for the situation. This could result in the employer facing prosecution with a maximum fine of £1m and in some cases a prison sentence.
‘Ifs’ and ‘buts’ take on particular significance when it comes to health and safety in the workplace. It’s worth remembering that 1 in 4 road accidents occur when a driver is driving for work. It’s essential that organisations take driving compliance seriously to minimise the risk of the above scenario occurring.
What should employers be doing?
An employer assumes responsibility for the health, safety, and well-being of employees at work, including those times when employees drive for work. To avoid adverse publicity and litigation, we would suggest the following.
All organisations should formulate and publish a driving at work policy which should cover off:
- Any specific company driving rules or requirements
- Safe vehicle use
- Driving licence checks (including how often and why this is necessary)
- Vehicle checks (employee owned vehicles specifically – see Grey Fleet)
- Eyesight requirements
- Mobile phones/sat nav usage
- Smoking, eating, drinking and other distractions
- Hours and breaks
- Car sharing
- Using public transport
At the absolute minimum, employers should carry out regular licence checks to ensure that firstly, the employee has a valid driving licence and secondly has the correct licence entitlement for the vehicle they are driving. Whilst there is no legislation on the frequency of checks, we would recommend checks are scheduled 1-4 times a year based on a variety of factors including driver risk (insight from licence check results) and how frequently the employee drives for for work.
How can organisations manage driver checks?
For smaller organisations, you may wish to carry out your own DVLA checks. You can do this (at no cost) using the DVLA Share My Driving Licence service. A nominated employee will need to be responsible for checking and storing the results of these checks to comply with Duty Of Care requirement and to provide evidence that the checks have been carried out.
For larger organisations , there are many service providers which offer driver and vehicle checks. DAVIS offers organisations a simple, effective and reliable software service which checks driver credentials against the DVLA database. Checks can be automated so that very little human intervention is required and drivers are scored as low, medium or high risk according to penalty points and endorsements.