Malcolm Maycock explains why frequently checking driving licences is so important for fleet business
FLEETS should take a proactive approach to regularly checking the licences of employees, to assess whether they remain suitable to drive on company business and ensure they are adhering to Duty of Care obligations.
With some uncertainty in companies on who uses their car to drive on company business, it’s more vital than ever to check the licences of all employees.
I recommend, in-line with the traffic commissioners, that licence checks are carried out at three-monthly intervals in order for drivers to remain compliant, allowing employers to build the most up-to-date digital picture of employees. Organisations such as the Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme and Freight Transport Association recommend checks every six months and additional checks for high risk drivers.
Companies must remember that it’s not only staff that drive company vehicles as the main part of their job that need to be checked. Other employees who may use their own vehicle to perform any job-related tasks, known as grey fleet drivers, no matter how big or small, must be checked.
There could be serious implications for the company if a driver, who could have convictions, endorsements or a disqualification against their licence, is involved in an incident, and it can be proved they are driving on business.
With HGV and motorcycle drivers holding various entitlements, frequent licence checks are crucial to build a larger overall compliance profile of the driver. This could include any changes to medical conditions that could affect an employee’s ability to drive.
Real-time licence checking also allows fleets to obtain a bigger picture of any points, endorsements or a disqualification that a driver may hold against their licence. With the speed that licences are updated by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), it’s vital to know from one day to the next that your driver is still legally able to operate the vehicle on company business, giving complete peace of mind and full compliance with employment contracts and insurance.
Failure to enforce this could result in substantial legal, reputational and financial repercussions should a driver on your fleet be involved in an incident. The process of dealing with those drivers whose licences require urgent attention and the sheer number of drivers operating illegally in the UK should encourage businesses to keep the most up-to-date information available for their drivers.
Frequent licence checking should serve as part of a company’s overall risk assessment, laid out by the Health and Safety Executive. Under The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers should be identifying the hazards that a driver could pose, and regularly reviewing their work-related risk assessment.
An employee’s overall driving history needs to be checked, both at the time of employment and frequently throughout their tenure.
When checking an employee’s licence, any system needs to be compliant with the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. This emphasises the need for thoroughly checking the licences of current staff, and when employing new employees who will be driving on company business.
Should an employer not schedule regular assessments, they have no way of knowing whether their drivers’ have previously committed an offence since the last check, which could compromise the company’s vehicle insurance policy.
This is especially important for those with the most serious convictions that will become spent after five years. These offences typically involve driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or causing death by dangerous driving.
The driving licence is now only a starting point; fleets should ensure drivers are fit and healthy and not impaired by any prescribed drugs or medical conditions, even for a short time.
Licence holders have a legal obligation to notify their employer and the DVLA of any impediment to their health that would prevent them from driving, or from carrying out their job to the required standard.
However, relying solely on the driver to notify their employer of such a condition is risky. Regardless of severity of the health issue, this could allow an unfit driver to get behind the wheel and in some cases, operate specialist equipment. This could leave employers liable to prosecution should an incident occur.
Regular checks and encouraging drivers to inform their employers of any changes to their health, that may affect their ability to carry out their duties, is the only way to ensure that risk in this area is mitigated. However, this requires the ability for fitness-to-drive information gathered from third-parties, to be acted on by the DVLA, whether this is from doctors or police.
The time and resources required for fleets to establish licence checking, especially when carrying out checks internally, is no excuse not to regularly assess the ability for employees to drive on company business.
Although internal checking and re-checking of driving licences can prove initially time consuming, the consequences could prove irreversible should an employee, who has not disclosed all aspects of their driving licence, be involved in an accident.
This article appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2016 issue of Cardinus Connect magazine, our magazine for the risk professional. For your free copy, download Cardinus Connect here.
Need help checking employee driver licences? Our checking service, including for grey fleet drivers, can help you to minimise cost and reduce the administration of doing this by yourself. Read more about our licence checking service here.