A driver’s handbook is great, up to a point, but a manager’s handbook can fill a lot of the gaps, according to lawyer Jason Stevens.

Sadly, road casualty figures rose dramatically in 2014. There were 380 deaths on British roads in the first three months of the year – 13 per cent more than in the January to March 2013. The number of killed or seriously injured incidents total 5,500 which is an increase of 17 per cent.

This is a very disappointing trend given that, as you will read elsewhere in this magazine, the number of reported deaths last year was the lowest since records began.

The press is full of stories of drivers being sent to prison for road-related offences and often the thrust of the story is that the sentence is not long enough. As an experienced criminal lawyer I have seen first-hand the terrible feelings of guilt, regret and fear of what will happen following an accident.

I am there at the police station when it dawns on them what has happened and the impact the incident will have on theirs and others’ lives. The feeling of regret is written all over their faces. They would do anything to go back and change things for those that have suffered and for themselves.

But going back is not possible. It is for that reason we must all take care and use the benefit of others’ hindsight so as not to end up in their shoes. To that end we have to take driving in the workplace seriously for the sake of both the employee and the employer.

That means ensuring that risks are properly assessed and documented. Procedures are put in place so that everyone, including the managers, has a policy to refer to and adhere to. If that is done then the employee and the employer can rely on the defence of due diligence, in that they have fulfilled their statutory obligations and done all that they reasonably could.

The steps that are taken to ensure safety must be documented so that they can be referred to practically and evidentially if under investigation. The difficulties I have seen with a lot of driving policies are that too much emphasis and responsibility is placed on the employee to ensure they are working safely.

For instance it is their responsibility to report illness, vehicle faults, maintain the vehicle, check the vehicle, decide if it’s safe to drive, take breaks etc. That is why Cardinus drafted the Line Manager’s Handbook to run alongside the standard Safe Driving at Work Manual. If a line manager has notice that someone has been unwell, off work or working a lot of hours under pressure it can’t be ignored. They need to be empowered to step in.

If the line manager fails in their duty as set out in the handbook the company is free to argue that they have done all they can and it’s an individual mistake.

The employee will be enormously grateful that they are provided with some relief and the company has dealt with an increased risk.

The manual gives guidance as to what is expected of the employee and the handbook sets out how the manager must implement the manual.

Guidance is provided to all and the company can demonstrate that they have acted diligently by taking all reasonable steps to equip all the employees how to stay safe and keep others safe.

This advice is from the most recent edition of our fleet magazine which brings together contributions from renowned occupational road risk experts and is filled with useful and informative articles. If you haven’t already done so, request your free copy by emailing info@cardinus.com

You can now also assess your fleet risk free-of-charge with our quick and easy to use online Fleet Audit which provides guidance on the management of employees who drive on company business, and the vehicles they drive. It covers all aspects of fleet risk management and may include areas of risk you haven’t considered.

For free access to the Fleet Audit click here.

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