“Duty of Care” three little words which carry significant weight in the world of business, and which dictate so much of a business owner / fleet managers time when it comes to managing their company’s vehicle operations.
Whether you manage the operation of one or one thousand vehicles, the “Duty of Care” responsibilities remain the same, meaning to protect yourself, your business and employees, compliance needs to be assured and regularly reviewed to ensure you have taken the correct steps.
Over 1.4 work journey related fatalities per day
In 2016 alone 529 fatalities where associated with “driving for work” activities – that’s is over 1.4 per day. Of these 427 were other road users (General Public), 18 were in vehicle passengers and 84 were work drivers or riders.
Whilst the number of work-related road casualties has fallen substantially in recent years, mainly due to the volume of all road casualties having fallen substantially, the proportion of all road casualties that are work-related has not changed.
Between 2006 and 2016, almost 30% of road deaths and 22% of serious casualties occurred in accidents involving at least one at-work driver or rider.
Road Casualties ‘driving for work’ by severity 2006-2016
Statistics taken from Occupational Road Safety Alliance
What does the law say?
Whilst the Corporate Manslaughter and Health and Safety legislation state you must check and monitor your employees driving license, there is no hard and fast rule as to how regularly this should be done. The general consensus is that driving licence checks should be carried out on recruitment and at least once a year, however it may be advisable to carry them out more frequently as penalty points can accumulate quickly. Under UK legislation failure to put a structured process in place leaves you and your business very much at risk from prosecution if you fail to comply.
The laws which affect your responsibility are as follows –
- The Road Traffic Act 1988 – “It is an offence for a person to cause or permit another person to drive on a road a motor vehicle of any class if that other person is not the holder of a licence authorising him to drive a motor vehicle of that class.”
In plain English – You are breaking the law if you or your business are seen to be responsible for allowing a member of staff, employed, temporary or otherwise, to operate a piece of machinery when they do not hold a valid driving license to be doing so.
- The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 – 2.1 – “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all their employees.”
Meaning – Should your business be found to have requested a member of staff to operate a piece of machinery, which they are not qualified to use, or that is not in safe operational condition, then it may well be considered you have not acted to protect their health, safety or wellbeing, and would be breaking health and safety law.
- The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 – 3.1 – “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct their undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in their employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”
The health and safety laws dictate that you must protect the public’s health safety and wellbeing as you would a member of your staff, if you or your business are found to be responsible for not conducting sufficient checks prior to machinery being used, it would be more than likely that you be found to be breaking this law.
- The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 – “An organisation is guilty of an offence if the way in which its activities are managed or organised—
(a) Causes a person’s death, and
(b) Amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased.
In summary – If you are unfortunate to have an incident involving one of your members of staff which involves a driving fatality, meaning a potential corporate manslaughter prosecution, the court would consider the way an organisation applied the Health and Safety guidelines for managing a fleets risk, as well as other health and safety practices. For example, they would more than likely examine the level of driver qualifications and training, the suitability of company and private vehicles used for said work, and the maintenance arrangements put in place.
What actions do I need to take?
Let’s be clear if you are a business owner / director or fleet manager for your business, then it is your responsibility to have a robust and well-documented policy to regularly check your driver’s eligibility to drive and vehicles being used during your company’s day to day operation. Having a robust system in place will be fundamental when defending yourself against prosecution.
To do this, you will need to gain permission from all staff members, to allow you to access their records. Once this permission has been obtained, it is then advisable to:
- Carry out a regular audit of your staff (permanent and temporary) to identify who drives on business related journeys, and to identify the vehicles they are using to do so.
- Check that every driver conducting business journeys has a valid driver’s licence, is insured for business purposes, and that the vehicles they use are roadworthy – that includes employees’ own cars.
- Following the results of the above audit, license and vehicle checks, conduct a risk assessment of drivers and vehicle prioritising the potential risks to allow you to check these more regularly, than others.
- Put in place a Driving for Work policy – and ensure this is communicated effectively to all staff.
- Ensure you have an auditable trail, which is easy to decipher and can be easily called upon if necessary.
Do I need to use a third-party provider to conduct these checks?
No, you can check driver licenses, vehicle tax, MOT and Insurance status free of charge yourself.
However, given the level of administrative work required to keep on top of this process on a regular basis, you may find the minimal costs of using a reputable checking service to be more than worth the money, especially if you have a high volume fleet. Particularly when the results of the checks are kept in an easy to navigate online portal providing an auditable system, and the support they provide in gaining the relevant permissions needed to check driver’s licenses.
We have provided the links to the relevant sites to allow you to conduct these checks below.
Driver License Check – Can be accessed by clicking here
Vehicle Status Check – Can be accessed by clicking here
Vehicle Insurance Status – Can be accessed by clicking here
I would like to speak to a Vehicle and Driving license checking specialist to discuss our requirement.
Drive Time have partnered with market leading driver compliance company License Bureau to provide access to a reduced cost license and vehicle checking service.
Simply by filling in the form on the right, they will be aware you are looking to speak to a professional about your business requirement, and will contact you with a no-obligation quote.
The Drive Time process has been designed to save you time, cost and resource, which can be better spent elsewhere within your business.
Is there anything else I need do to protect my business?
As drivers and vehicles arrive and depart from your business, the task of manging this process will be an ongoing process. There will always be activity you need to undertake to keep on top of the matter – this is again where using a reputable third-party provider will help you manage the task, allowing you to concentrate on daily tasks.
From a legal perspective, the risks to you as an individual, your employer, company shareholders and your company drivers are significant, ranging from fines through to prosecution. By undertaking the above steps, you are providing assurance that you are addressing those three dreaded words “Duty of Care”, which can be tested through scrutiny, should an issue be unfortunate to happen.