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Motor fleets and your duty of care as an employer

Mon 30th Sep 19

With most recent statistics from the Department for Transport (DfT) showing that there was a three per cent year on year increase in the number of people seriously injured in reported road traffic accidents in 2018 – that’s 25,511 people, compared to 24,831 in 2017, safety on the UK’s roads is a trending topic.

And while the same report shows that the number of deaths on the roads was actually down by one per cent, these figures probably prompt us all to be a little more thoughtful about our responsibilities while driving. This includes employers, too.

An employer has many responsibilities, and every business has a duty of care to provide adequate health and safety measures for their staff. For employers running a fleet, either operating a company car scheme, or allowing their employees to use their own vehicles for business (grey fleet), the duty of care extends beyond the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to require employers to ensure their drivers are as safe as possible while on the road.

What is your duty of care as a fleet manager?

So, what is a duty of care? Oxford dictionaries describes it as a moral or legal obligation to ensure the safety or wellbeing of others.

When it comes to employers managing a fleet, though, there are several pieces of legislation to take into consideration, including various road traffic acts, the Highway Code, and a number of other statutes covering issues such as the construction of vehicles and the carriage of dangerous goods by road.

Of course, your drivers do have responsibility for some of the obligations set out within these laws, acts and regulations. For instance, they’re responsible for driving safely, and for checking that they’re driving an adequately maintained and insured vehicle.

As the vehicle will also be considered a place of work, though, employers are also responsible for ensuring that vehicle is safe, and that it’s insured adequately.

In addition, employers have a duty to their employees and to members of the public who may be affected by work activities under employment law. They also have ‘vicarious liability’ for the acts of their employees. This means that they’re responsible for ensuring employees comply with legislation and they’re directly liable for any death or injury caused by an employee in the course of their work.

What about if your employees own their own vehicles?

If your employees own their own vehicles, but they use it in the course of their work – for business travel – the ‘Driving at work – managing work related road safety’ guidelines, published by the Department for Transport (DfT) and Health & Safety Executive (HSE) requires that your duty of care applies in the same way as if they were using a vehicle provided by you.

This means you need to make regular checks to ensure the vehicle is well maintained, and that the correct levels of insurance are in order.

Other laws affecting your duty of care

As well as the ‘Driving at work – managing work related road safety’ guidelines, there are various other pieces of legislation to bear in mind, including the Road Safety Act 2006 and the Road Traffic Acts 1988 and 1991, as well as a number of other acts and directives:

· Health & Safety at Work Act 1974

· Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999

  • Road Transport Directive
  • Ensuring your drivers are properly trained, including suitable induction, ongoing training and personal development planning, regularly checking that drivers understand company policy and procedures, including accident reporting and the use of mobile phones.
  • 2. Vehicle
  • Regularly checking the vehicle condition and suitability, from purchase onwards, including MOT and servicing checks, inspections, vehicle safety and security.

· Corporate Manslaughter Act 2007

Managing risk

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, as an employer you have a duty to assess risk in the workplace. This means carrying out risk assessments, identifying risks and minimising them with policies, procedures and safe systems of work, all the while keeping employees informed of these risks and the safeguards you’ve put in place to protect them.

This includes risks to employees on the road, which can be categorised in three areas:

1. Driver

· Regularly checking driver capability and suitability, including experience and references, driver’s licence, qualifications, eyesight and medical certificates?

3. Journey
· Thoroughly planning routes and schedules for each journey and journey type, checking for hazards along the way, monitoring drivers’ hours and ensuring drivers are aware when to stop. Remember to factor in weather conditions, too.

· Ensuring time and distance are properly calculated and that your drivers don’t feel pressured. Make sure rest breaks and overnight stops are factored in and monitor speed for each driver.

Your duty of care and insurance

Making sure adequate insurance is in place for each of the vehicles in your fleet in imperative. Your insurance broker can work with you to ensure this is managed effectively. To find out more about insurance for your fleet, speak to our Enterprise Division on 01473 343491.