As an employer you need to take all aspects of driving for your company very seriously. The suitability and fitness of the vehicles to do the job, the training and competence of the individual doing the driving, the work rate imposed upon the driver and the fitness of that driver to keep the vehicle and other road users safe. If you believe that a driver may not be safe on the road, then you have a duty to take steps to prevent that driver getting behind the wheel of one of your company’s vehicles.
As a manager you can be confronted with many different fitness to drive situations across your working week. You will need to be able to respond to and manage these as smoothly as possible.
When making decisions on someone's ability to drive you will need to be sure of your company policies and procedures across a wide range of topic areas. Health and Safety is one area and indeed your health and safety policies will be the basis upon which you may make many of your decisions.
You also need to understand both your employee’s duties as set out in company polices and driving law and, your employees rights under equality, data protection and employment legislation.
As a manager you may need to draw on information a number of policy areas including:
Health and Safety
Alcohol and drugs policies
Specific driving or vehicle policies
Employment (recruitment and ongoing)
Company support policies (occupational health, employee assistance programmes, health and wellbeing polices and practices etc)
You should be familiar with these policies, if they don’t exist, then work to develop and implement them. If they do not provide the guidance you need to manage fitness to drive, then suggest that they are reviewed.
Employers have a duty to ensure that drivers are entitled to drive the type of vehicle needed to carry out their tasks, that these vehicles are safe to use and that employees are trained, competent and fit to do so.
Based on your knowledge of these policies and road traffic and safety legislation you may need to take the decision not to allow a driver onto the road.
Having specific policies for managing specific risks could be of great help.
Advice and examples on creating driving policies can be found in the members area of the SCORSA web site (membership and registration is free) at http://www.scorsa.org.uk/members/member-content/morr-policy-guidance/
Managers and supervisors have a key role to play in identifying and preventing issues with the employee’s competence and fitness to drive. They should have enough knowledge and skills to allow them to recognise issues in good time. This will allow them to use any support available for the employee before is too late, preventing an accident from occuring or the potential for disciplinary action to be required.
To be able to achieve this managers and supervisors should:
- Be involved, consulted and committed while developing the organisation’s policies and procedures related to safe driving.
- Have a clear understanding of their responsibilities and what is expected of them, also to understand their employee’s responsibilities and duties
- Be able to identify possible symptoms, side effects and changes to their employee’s fitness, attitude, mood or performance that could lead to bigger issues.
- Understand how work could have a negative effect on the employee’s ability to drive safely, for example by putting too much pressure on their employees. Also they should understand how issues from outside the workplace, such as a new baby or extra caring responsibilities could have an effect on the employee.
- Have the confidence to bring this up with their employee and have a meaningful, confidential and sympathetic conversation with them.
- Be aware of the support available for the employee, in addition to be aware of what services are available to them if they require further support for dealing with the issue.
- Understand the consequences that could impact on them, the company and the employee when these issues are ignored, which could lead to disciplinary actions, accidents, prosecutions or even imprisonment.
While creating policies and procedures for ensuring safe driving you can decide whether to have one policy that covers all aspects of safe driving (vehicles, training, fit to drive, drugs and alcohol, licence checks...) or specific policies for each of them.
For help in how to create a general health and safety policy visit this page
Under the member section of the SCORSA (Scottish Occupational Road Safety Alliance, free membership) website you can find examples for driving safely policies used by another organisations, you can use them as a reference:
Additionally, you can download guidance, which also includes an example policy, in relation to Fitness to Drive and Driving for Work, Drinks and alcohol from the SCORSA website
Employers have a duty to ensure that their drivers are trained, competent and fit to drive. Your policy and procedures need to explain how you will achieve this and how you will check throughout the course of employment that drivers are competent to drive safely.
Assessments done during recruitment and documentation checks (licence and insurance) aren’t enough. Driving, like any other skill, will need to be maintained during the driver’s career, and a driver's physical ability to do the job will change throughout life, sometimes for short periods and at other times perhaps a change in health condition that can have a lasting impact on thier ability to drive for work. For this reason the organisation needs to assess the employee’s driving skills regularly.
Training should be provided to drivers:
- During their induction – a clear induction process should be in place to help drivers familiarise with vehicles and routes, but also with the company’s policies, procedures and general culture. It is critcial to spell out that employees will be expected to take some responsibility for their ability to drive, to come to work fit to drive and what steps the individual and organisation will go through if they suspect that fitness to drive has been compromised (temporarily or permanently). It must also be made clear that a driver must inform his manager at the earliest opportunity of any reason why they may not be able to drive. Ideally your company policies will be written to take account of such eventuality and to be supportive to the employee in question.
- Regularly – the frequency of training would depend on different factors, and should be tailored to the individual instead of being a blank rule for all. All opportunities to discuss suitability to drive should also cover fitness to drive and encourage both the maintenance of driver health and and the reporting of health or driver issues within the organisation.
- After an incident or a complaint - as part of any investigation into an incident, near miss or complaint you should consider any health issues that could have impacted upon the circumstance of the event, and also any post event health issues that could arise and require management in the future, for example stress, head injury, musculoskeletal injury that could impact on future ability to drive.
- Returning to work – if the driver has been absent from work for a period of time we can’t assume that their driving skills, confidence or competence are the same as they were before their absence period. For this reason it’s necessary that you assess their skills and provide any training or support required. The reason for absence and the fitness of the driver to return to normal duties should also be considered. Temporary adjustments to facilitate a full recovery, or discussions around changing roles might be necessary.
You can access the Driving Risks at Work virtual learning module created by Healthy Working Lives here
Managers, supervisors, colleagues and any individual who may have an issue that could affect their ability to drive, should feel confident to discuss these issues. To achieve this the culture within the organisation should be one that encourages employees to speak up without feeling that they will be punished or victimised. Early intervention and support is always the preferred option.
Your company policy and procedure should clearly explain the process for licence checks, the reasons behind these checks can be many, for example:
- Upon recruitment the licence will clearly indicate the type of vehicles permitted and the level of qualification the individual has obtained. It will also indicate endorsements and health restrictions which may have a bearing on employment.
- There is no rule about how often you check an employee's licence.This could be done regularly (for example every 6 months or yearly) and by random checks throughout the course of employment. However it’s worth noting that this could be done more frequently with employees who have been given penalty points or other restrictions. Since the paper section of the driver licence is no longer valid you need to check licenses using the government website with the employee’s consent, this is a free service. You can also use third parties to check this for you but there will be a cost involved.
- Encourage employees to let you know of any endorsements placed upon their licence or temporary restrictions on driving from, for example a GP as soon as possible.
- Explain any training and support available for those employees who have been given any form of licence endorsement (health or penalty related)
- Encourage drivers to let you know of any shortcoming to their health that could have an effect on their ability to drive safely. Or if they suffer from a notifiable medical condition for the DVLA.
A medical condition that is notifiable to DVLA only becomes effective on diagnosis. The employee may be aware of symptoms and checks being carried out before this diagnosis and these symptoms and any treatment for them, may be effecting their ability to drive. An open and supportive company culture will help facilitate the individuals being more open with their employer and being prepared to discuss such issues at an early stage.
Employees can and should seek advice from their GP if unsure about their health or disability and how this might affect their driving. A GP will also encourage their patient to report conditions to the DVLA and discuss employment issues with their employer. If an employee has been told by their GP to stop driving for more than 3 months then they need to surrender their licence, however they will be able to apply again when their condition has improved. You can check on this list whether a health condition is notifiable to the DVLA but as an employer you may need to intervene and stop an employee driving long before a formal health diagnosis.
- Your company policies should be clear about any disciplinary actions that could be taken against the employee for not disclosing information to the employer.
Awareness campaigns, group discussions, talks, seminars or training are some of the tools that you can use to inform your workers about driving and health. Creating a policy in conjunction with employees and managers, followed by an education program, will be your first step to create a workplace where you could discuss openly.