The financial outlay for assessing the risks to company drivers and providing driver training can appear daunting when becoming involved for the first time. The costs of assessment depend largely on whether they are undertaken on computer or by a qualified instructor in the vehicle.
The same is true of driver training. Both methods play a vital part in managing road risk, and whilst it’s true to say that the practical elements of being with an instructor can’t be beaten, computer-based methods uniquely enable high volume throughput, consistent quality and delivery.
Who pays for driver training is debateable – employees who should ensure they are fit to drive or employers who need to demonstrate a duty of care?
The management of work-related driving activities has gained increasing awareness and momentum since the Government’s Safer Roads for Everyone initiative in 2000. At this time work-related driving deaths could only be estimated by insurance claims and mortuary statistics, but have since been monitored by the Police and Health & Safety Executive.
Today it’s common knowledge that 20 people driving for work lose their lives, and a further 250 are maimed or seriously injured every week on British roads. It isn’t surprising that this area of health and safety has received growing attention from the HSE and road safety charities.
This is hard to refute given that the number of fatalities of people driving for work are five times greater than the rest of industry, but we must not lose sight of the people maimed and injured who whose lives will never be the same.
New health and safety legislation often generates new revenue streams for providers and no one wants to miss the bandwagon. It’s ironic that the products on offer have been around for some time and it is the changing circumstances that lead to their marketing focus. But let’s not fool ourselves that compliance is all about the purchase of products new to the company, there is much to be gained from reviewing policies and procedures.
A Government-Led Solution
There could be major impacts on road safety if the law changed to impose a Driving Standards Authority (DSA) theory and road test for professional drivers every three years. These could include drivers having improved knowledge in keeping with the times, with this leading to improved driving behaviour. This in turn should begin the process of changing driver attitudes towards it being their responsibility to keep their driving skills safe and up-to-date.
By employees maintaining their own competence levels, employers would be assured that their employees’ driving competency is checked on 3 year cycles. During the interim period employees would be motivated to drive well to minimise the cost of training prior to re-examination. However, while we wait for this idea, or something close, to become reality, there are ways that employer’s costs are outweighed by the gains from driver training.
An Employer-Led Solution
It has long been assumed that when a person applies for a job where driving is involved that they are presenting themselves as fit and able to drive. Employers can verify this by checking the candidates licence for validity and taking references from former employers regarding their driving history.
A driver-risk assessment can also be introduced as part of the interview process. Computer based programmes designed for this can flag potential problems immediately, giving an employer a factual base for the hiring of drivers. Someone with a poor driving history and high accident rate could be encouraged to improve before being considered for hire.
As for candidates suitable for a position, but with evidence or indication of low driving skills, employers could make conditional offers based on the employee taking personal remedial action before employment can begin. Annual risk assessments for all employees who drive for work are becoming increasingly popular and give employers an on-going competency check. Once implemented, they become a useful tool within the company’s safety culture.
Employers also have a duty of care to ensure that they set sales and service territories which are manageable for people to cover. Expecting one person to cover a large area with matching targets will promote dangerous and speedy driving as well as fatigue. Companies should pay to counteract this with policies that allow for sufficient rest breaks and overnight accommodation when appropriate, and driver training to set the smooth, safe driving standard that is expected.
I believe that being proactive about driver risk assessment and training will benefit a company in the long run. Implementing such a policy for the reasons of driver safety and culture will have more impact on employees than a tick the box exercise to show compliance. The return on investment could more than cover the costs. By driving sensibly and safely, savings can be made in terms of tyre wear, unscheduled vehicle maintenance costs and fuel costs in addition to fewer collision repairs. Not to mention any implications these may bring in terms of the Corporate Manslaughter Act.
Until there is a Government-led solution to put a legal onus onto individual employees to keep their driving skills up-to-date, safe and legal, employers remain legally bound to pay for driver training if they are to manage risks. Whilst the costs of this may seem daunting at first, they can, in reality be minimised by including assessments and checks during interview and the on-going costs recouped by the savings in operational costs.
For me, this seems the most logical way of ensuring an employer’s duty of care required in law whilst encouraging drivers to be aware that they too are responsible for their own driving.