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Both employers and employees have responsibilities under current road traffic legislation when driving for work as to the hours and policies they adhere to, with respect to safer roads and less accidents (and risk of accidents).

Fewer road accidents lead to not only safer roads for all concerned, but practical benefits to the employer, including less days lost to injury, reduced running costs and fewer repairs to vehicles. Legalities aside, it is an employer’s best interest to effectively manage their driving for work policies.

Driving at Work: The Law

The current law for driving at work is governed by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. This states that the health and safety of all employees should be ensured “so far as reasonably practicable”.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to effectively manage health and safety. What this means in real terms is that an employer must consult with employees on health safety issues, including

  • Risks that do, or could, arise from their work
  • Raise proposals to manage these risks
  • Provide information and training to all as to how to do their job safely

Road traffic laws including the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations and the Road Traffic Act also govern the duties that employers have to their employees when driving for work. These are administered by the police and the DVSA, although the police will be the ones who take the lead if an incident occurs. HSE step in if enforcement action is needed, if the police have identified that serious management failures have led to the incident in question.

Legal Duties of Employers & Organisations

Employers must assess the risks posed to their employees when on the road; this involves carrying out risk assessments that aim to identify risks and taking sensible measures to control them, with the overall goal of minimising the risk that someone may be injured or killed to as low as possible.

A comprehensive risk assessment for driving includes:

  • Identifying hazards that may result in harm when driving on the public roads. It is key to consider not only the driver, but the vehicle and the journey as well. Hazards identified may include:
  • Length of journey
  • Suitability of vehicle for journey
  • Cargo (if any) to be carried
  • Fatigue resulting from journey time
  • Identifying who may be harmed and how. This includes the driver, passengers, pedestrians and other road users. High risk individuals or groups should also be considered, including new drivers, long distance drivers or those working long hours.
  • Evaluating the risks posed and deciding how likely harm is to occur – the primary (main) risks should all be identified and managed responsibly.
  • Recording the findings – this needs to be written down if you have 5 or more employees by law. Even if you don’t, it’s good practice to keep a written record of all risk assessments and findings.
  • Regularly review risk assessment(s) and ensure all risks are suitably controlled. Circumstances that may prompt a review including new routes, new equipment or new drivers.

Legal Duties of Employees

Employees also have legal duties to undertake when driving for work. There will always be risks associated with driving, but anyone in control of a vehicle has a legal duty to drive safely, within the remits of the law at all times, and within their organisation or employer’s policies for safe driving. This protects not only the driver but other road users, including passengers and pedestrians.

Those in the courier or haulage industries also need to work in respect of loading safety laws, as the driver is the one primarily responsible for ensuring any load they carry is secured safely and legally. The laws that enforce load securing are both governed by the DVSA and are:

  • The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986, regulation 100
  • The Road Traffic Act 1988, section 40a

Driver’s Hours

Drivers of goods vehicles or combinations of vehicle and trailer of more than 3.5 tonnes are also subject to regulations that govern how long they can drive for between breaks and rest periods. The rules on breaks and rest periods are set to prevent against fatigue and accidents caused by drivers falling asleep on the wheel and all drivers in this industry across the EU must adhere to them. For further information, please see Drivers’ Hours: Rules and Guidance from Gov.uk. In short, however, the rules are as follows:

  • Drivers have a 9 hour daily driving limit (this can increase to 10 hours twice a week). They must have a 45 min break after 4.5 hours each day. This can be split into two breaks of 15 mins and 30 mins but must not be any less than 15 mins.
  • This leads to a maximum of 56 hours driving per week and 90 per fortnight.

Drivers must also have regular daily rest periods, which are different to breaks. These need to be uninterrupted periods of rest from driving and should be 11 hours per day. This again can be split into 2 periods of 3 hours and 9 hours, totalling 12 hours. The rest periods cannot be any less than these numbers, although a driver can reduce their rest period to 9 hours overall 3 times a week maximum.

Weekly rest periods of 45 hours can be reduced to 24 hours but one full rest is required every fortnight as a minimum.

Tachographs

Drivers of commercial vehicles under EU or AETR rules must use a tachograph. These record driving time, speed and distance and ensure drivers follow the rules on driver’s hours. All commercial vehicles registered after 1 May 2006 have digital tachographs fitted. The information is saved to a smart card and can be checked by the police and employers to ensure that the driver is driving within the law.

Author Rebecca Sturgess

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