Whether you have a trade, a supervisory or management role, or deliver materials, driving for work is one of the most important parts of the job yet many of us don’t give it a second thought. It is well-established in health and safety law that a vehicle driven for work is classed as an extension of the workplace, so employers have a legal responsibility to make sure vehicles and drivers are safe. If you’re the designated health and safety professional in the business then this is even more important.

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders there are now almost 5 million vans on Britain’s road and many of these are used to carry people, tools or materials to site. Government statistics show that over 35,000 people are injured each year in collisions that involve someone driving for work. The vast majority of these injuries are not the person driving – they are usually other vulnerable road users such as cyclists or pedestrians, and further studies show that vans are ten times more likely to be involved in a fatal collision than cars, and more than twice as likely to be involved as a heavy goods vehicle.

Health and Safety at Work Legislation

The same legislation that requires you to provide correct PPE and training for your employees, including sub-contractors, and to ensure any tools are safely maintained, also requires you to manage any driving activities. Current Health and Safety at Work legislation requires you to:

  1. Risk assess any business activities that involve driving
  2. Create policies and procedures for carrying out those activities safely
  3. Carry out those activities without putting your employee (the driver) at risk
  4. Carry out those activities without putting other road users at risk
  5. Monitor those activities to ensure they are always carried out safely
  6. Keep adequate records of everything that has been done

In the event of a serious crash you may need to prove that you did all these things and took all reasonable precautions to minimise the risks.

Are you responsible? Yes!

We all know that ignorance of the law is no defence if you break the law. Management of driver safety can often be shared across a number of roles such as fleet, health & safety, operations, finance, etc. It’s easy for managers and directors to believe they don’t have any responsibility for drivers and vehicles because they may assume someone else has it covered.

If you’re reading this, the chances are you are one of the people in your organization who shares that responsibility. With that in mind, it is important that you own the responsibility and ensure others in the business are aware of the importance of managing driver and vehicle safety correctly.

Driver checks

All your drivers need to be correctly licensed to drive the vehicle they’re using and they also need to be medically fit to do so. A driving licence check will provide this information. Guidance from the government and the Health and Safety Executive says you should check driving licences on joining and periodically thereafter however many companies, in line with guidance from accreditation bodies such as CHAS and FORS, require more frequent checks. Automated, online licence-checking services are cheap and make the process of checking and record-keeping quick and painless. Driver licence checks can be done direct with DVLA through our partners at FleetCheck.

You should also check that your drivers are competent to do what you’re asking them to do and provide training where necessary – such as for towing trailers or plant behind a van.

Vehicle safety

All vehicles need to be roadworthy at all times and simply having an MOT is not enough. Around a third of vans and other light commercial vehicles fail their MOT at the first attempt so your vehicles should be checked every day before use. Safety-critical faults such as worn tyres or broken lights need to be fixed immediately. Other less serious faults need to be fixed at the earliest opportunity. You will need to keep records to prove that these checks have been done.

Driving safety standards

You can only expect safe driving when the rules are clearly laid out through a Driving for Work policy – a legally required document that must be owned by a company director. The policy lays out all the rules on company driving including the driver and vehicle checks outlined above, as well as guidance on:

  • Fitness-to-drive topics such as fatigue and drug/alcohol impairment.
  • Driver distraction including use of mobile phones.
  • Management of driver fatigue.
  • Driving to the Highway Code – including understanding that vans are often subject to lower speed limits than cars.

Once you’ve created a policy, it needs to be effectively communicated to all your drivers and reviewed annually to ensure it has kept pace with any updates to legislation or the Highway Code.

Record keeping

One of the most important elements of managing drivers and vehicles is record keeping. In the event of a serious incident, you could be asked by the investigating authorities – the police, the DVSA or the Health and Safety Executive – to prove that you had met all these requirements. Spreadsheets are fine up to a point but can easily by corrupted, lost and lead to errors when data is entered incorrectly. Accreditation services such as CHAS and FORS recommend using FleetCheck online Fleet Management Software and driver licence checking service to ensure they have the requisite audit trail of their fleet activity.