Driving at work guidance
Published On : 19 Nov 2021
The latest whitepaper by IAM RoadSmart (formerly the Institute of Advanced Motorists) in 2021 states that a 2020 study by University College London (UCL) and Agilysis found that about one in three road deaths and one in five seriously injured casualties are sustained when someone is driving for work 1.
In June 2021, an article in Fleet News mentioned Venson report ‘It’s Good to Talk - Caring About Mental Health’, says employees suffering from stress were 50% more likely to drive dangerously and be involved in crashes. The pressure of an increasingly demanding work culture in the UK was one of the ‘biggest contributors to stress among the general population’2.
Another IAM RoadSmart whitepaper produced in 2019 showed that despite the reduction in overall fatalities in the past 10 years, the number of fatalities and serious injuries involving an at work driver has actually increased3.
The paper also highlights some worrying practices and attitudes when it comes to some employers and their drivers:
• Nearly half of business leaders polled (49%) expect their employees to answer their phone at any time, including while driving for work;
• Just over one in eight employees who drive for work (13%) and more than one in 20 leaders (6%) consider the hard shoulder a safe place to take a work call;
• One in six UK employees who drive for work (17%) say they have been involved in an incident when driving for work due to a phone call from a colleague.
The report also highlights the issue of the grey fleet drivers – those using privately owned vehicles for work-related journeys. Employers’ obligations to a grey fleet driver are exactly the same as for a company car driver, so they still need to exercise their responsibility for staff health and safety.
Many companies will have drivers who sit adrift from their peers in terms of penalty points, RTC’s and general performance (including attitude to other road users, which can sometimes be difficult to monitor unless in-cab cameras are operating), but dealing with below par performance is often seen as too difficult in the current job market.
The risk of having to replace an unsafe driver is not always something employers want to confront, but with increasingly sophisticated data from telematics creating an evidence trail which will make it more difficult for employers to claim ignorance of potential problems, and the recent case involving Midland Red (South) Ltd which resulted in a £2.3m fine following a series of missed warning signs regarding driver performance, it’s becoming more likely that the Corporate Manslaughter Act will finally start to underpin safer business driving.
21st century communications present another serious barrier to driving down road casualties at work. Although the use of hand-held telephones by motorists was banned in the UK in 2003, information released by the Department for Transport shows that using a mobile was a contributory factor in 117 crashes (25 fatalities and 92 seriously injured) on Britain’s roads in 2018.
However, the true mobile phone death and injury count (including crashes caused by hands-free phone calls, which is often not included in official statistics) is probably far higher.
For many at-work drivers, keeping in touch with their managers is seen as essential, but given there is significant evidence that drivers talking on a phone are impaired (regardless of whether the phone is hand-held or hands-free) and that driving behaviour is impaired more during a phone conversation than by having a blood alcohol level at the UK legal limit, it’s becoming more common for managers to only talk with employees when they are stationary.
So what can you do?
Having a comprehensive driver handbook which outlines the responsibilities of both the employee and the employer is a good start. It should include the use of hand’s free mobile phones, but should also extend to the use of employees own personal vehicles, expectations or consequences around penalty points being incurred, being unfit through drink or drugs and the amount of time spent behind the wheel for both HGV and non-HGV drivers (HGV drivers being subject to the Working Time Directive).
Embrace technology – telematics can be used to identify poor driving, enabling employers to target tailored training, or show if employees are behind the wheel for too many hours, and could be beneficial in preventing incidents occurring. It also improves fuel economy in most cases when first implemented!
Ensure your vehicle checks are robust, and the output recorded – the increasing numbers of multi-agency compliance events on UK roads (bringing together the Police, HSE, DVSA, HM Revenue & Customs and Highways England) frequently produce 80-90% non-compliance rates (with an average of two offences per vehicle) which could cause problems with Operator Licences.
Asses all new drivers (including eye tests), and have a training process in place which is triggered after an RTC or if your telematics system flags performance issues, as well as scheduled periodic follow-up assessments.
1 Driving Safety Culture Survey 2020, IAM RoadSmart 2021. 2 Fleet News, Venson calls for greater focus on driver wellbeing. 3 Driving Safety Culture Survey 2019, IAM RoadSmart, 2020