Why you need a policy

Health and safety legislation requires that you risk assess all your business activities and put safe working practices in place to minimise those risks. If, for instance, we were looking at operating dangerous machinery, you would detail these safe working practices in a safe working policy document and communicate it to staff, providing training where necessary. If you didn’t do this and someone got seriously hurt, or worse, then you know there would be serious repercussions for both you and the business.

Allowing staff to drive for work is no different. There is clearly the potential for them to be injured and for them to injure others, so the risks need to be identified and managed. In short, you need a standalone policy document explaining the standards expected, you need to communicate that policy effectively to your drivers, and quite possibly to other staff as well, and you need to monitor activity to ensure the policy is being followed.

How to start writing one

Some of your policy document will be quite easy to write. You’ll need an introduction as to why the policy is necessary, and things like warning against driving while impaired through drugs and alcohol will likely be the same for most companies. However, other areas may not be quite straightforward.

It is also quite possible that you won’t know all the risks to safe driving that need to be included so a great idea is to gather your drivers together and ask them, or select representatives from each area of the business if you can’t speak to all of them. Managers often find this illuminating, with drivers complaining that they are…

being given unrealistic journey schedules encouraging them to speed,

required to carry too much equipment resulting in overloaded vehicles,

constantly being phoned by managers while driving,

having to drive too many hours on top of other work.

If you can engage your drivers when developing the policy, and ask them to help develop realistic safe working practices to help minimise the risks, you are much more likely to get their buy-in and compliance once the policy is launched.

What needs to be included

The following are the most common elements you will need to include but there may be others depending on the scope of your business operations.

Policy Statement: This explains to staff why the policy exists, what its objectives are, and why it’s important that the policy is followed. It should also mention that not following the policy may result in disciplinary action.

Who it applies to: Your policy should apply to everyone who drives for work, not just those who drive company vehicles but also those who may drive their own vehicles or rented vehicles. It should also apply to any subcontractors who may be working on your behalf.

Driver eligibility: Drivers need to be correctly licenced for the vehicle they’re driving, be medically fit, and meet eyesight requirements.

Vehicle roadworthiness: Drivers should be required to perform regular walkaround safety checks on their vehicles (daily for any van or other commercial vehicles). The company must also have a process for managing the repair of any damage or defects in a timely manner.

Safe loading: Vans must not be overloaded and any loads must be firmly and securely stowed. Of particular importance in the construction industry is the need to secure any loads carried on open-backed LCVs. Loose generators, wheelbarrows, shovels, etc, are NOT acceptable and must be secured.

Safe driving: Drivers need to follow the Highway Code at all times including keeping to the speed limits, which are often lower for vans than for cars, and maintaining a safe distance to the vehicle in front.

Driver distraction: Explain when it is acceptable to use a mobile phone along with detailing the risks of using other forms of distraction such as sat nav systems and other digital work devices while the vehicle is moving.  With mobile phone offences on the rise over recent years, this is an important one to get right – will you allow drivers to make calls on a handsfree device, which is legal but not necessarily safer, or will you opt to ban all calls whilst driving, which is accepted best practice but may incur pushback from some colleagues on the grounds it could harm productivity. Some of the biggest companies in the country have banned mobile phone use and seen their productivity increase! If you ban calls, you need to make sure other staff get the memo and don’t call your drivers when they know they’re on the road.

Driver impairment: Guidance on drinking and driving, illicit drug use, prescription drugs and the penalties. Many companies view any impairment-related driving offence as gross misconduct resulting in instant dismissal.

Journey planning & driver fatigue: Cover working hours and journey time, plus take account of any additional commuting time the driver may have so as not to create obvious risks of fatigue. Ensure opportunities are available for regular rest breaks and overnight stays where necessary.

What to do in an emergency: Ensure your drivers have a procedure to follow in the event of a breakdown or collision to help them take all necessary steps to deal with the emergency in a calm, safe and effective manner.

How to implement it

The first thing to do is for the senior manager that owns the policy to confirm they’re happy it covers all the business risks and then sign and date it.

Once you have your policy it needs to be communicated to everyone. You can do this through the FleetCheck system to ensure that distribution, receipt and acceptance is recorded for each driver. New drivers should be given a copy as part of their induction and the policy, along with the driver’s record over the year, should be included in any performance review. This is about their safety so it is as much an opportunity for them to voice concerns about any risk being imposed on them as it is to discuss speeding fines or a poor collision history.

Systems need to be in place to monitor compliance under each section. The most important thing here is fair and consistent application. The managing director is bound by these rules in exactly the same way as someone driving a van to site and that must be seen to be so. Letting management off the hook will be noticed and the whole project will fail.

Keeping your policy up to date

With your policy successfully implemented and monitored you can allow yourself a brief pat on the back but make sure you review your policy regularly. Changes to legislation and the Highway Code happen regularly so the policy needs to be reviewed to check whether any part of it needs updating, then signed and dated again after each review with any changes communicated out to staff.