FAQs

Employers of all sizes are constantly asking Defensive Driving questions to help them understand current legislation, their obligations, the best ways of minimising driver risk and improving driver attitude and skills. Over the coming weeks, we’ll keep adding to this list to build a library of the most common questions.

Q: Where do we stand when employing agency or temp drivers?
With temporary drivers you shouldn’t give them the keys until you have checked licences and briefed them about the vehicle and what you are expecting them to do on your behalf. You are liable for their actions. The same applies to agency drivers however you should also make the agency aware of your driver policies and procedures and they should agree in writing that their drivers will comply with your requirements.

Q: Why can’t a driving policy just tell people to follow the Highway Code?
One reason is that the driving policy may treat some issues slightly differently. For example it is legal to drive after a small amount of alcohol, or while on a hands-free phone, however many employers take a zero tolerance to both these activities. The employer may also often wish to provide more detailed guidance on certain topics such as vehicle maintenance.

Q: How do I convince the board of the financial benefits to improved driver safety?
Helping your high risk drivers can bring big benefits to the business by reducing the amount spent on the obvious costs of business crashes such as increased insurance premiums and vehicle repair costs as well as the often hidden costs such as sick leave. Consider the following – for every £1000 you are able to reduce accident costs by, you are adding £1000 directly to the bottom line profit of your company. In smaller companies this be the difference between a good or a bad year, while in medium and large companies it can add up to many tens of thousands of pounds. How many extra sales would your team have to make to achieve the same effect?

Q: We select drivers for training based on info from fleet. How can we pick up grey fleet?
Selecting people for training based on driving record is a reactive way of doing it and will generally miss out drivers who may have poor skills and concentration but just haven’t had an accident yet. You are also correct that it completely misses out those that use their own cars. We recommend an online driver risk assessment that will allow you to assess all your drivers, including grey fleet (those using their own cars), and then determine which should receive further intervention such as in-car training. Most help can be given through e-learning systems so you may find you can even reduce your costs for practical training.

Q: How likely is it that my drivers are under the influence of drink or drugs?
According to Defensive Driving partner Alere Toxicology, a recent white paper has highlighted that as many as 6% of all workers tested positive for drink or drugs – and that is just from the companies that have already implemented a testing regime. The transport and logistics industry was the worst with 8.3% of working testing positive. Imagine what the number could be when you include organisations where there is no fear of being tested. Industries with mandatory testing, such as the rail industry, were significantly less at 3%

Q: How do I know if my drivers’ eyesight meets the required standard?
Defensive Driving partner Specsavers produces a driver eyecare information pack which includes a standard number plate and tape measure so your drivers can check whether they meet the required standard. The pack also includes legislation updates, facts and figures and everything a fleet manager, HR or HSE professional needs to implement a corporate eyecare policy. Call 0115 933 0800 or visit www.specsavers.co.uk/corporate

Q: Is it OK for an organisation to have business drivers with diabetes or hypertension?
Drivers with various medical conditions can still be a valuable asset to your team. Just ensure you make them aware of the consequences of not reporting the condition to the DVLA to ensure fitness to drive. A great start is to visit – https://www.gov.uk/health-conditions-and-driving, this will give information of notifiable conditions. Failure to notify can be a fine of £1000 if involved in an incident.

Q: How far does the need for risk assessment and policy reach in regards to subcontractors?
If the subcontrators or self employed utilise any vehicle that you provide, you need to manage this. Record keeping is essential. A good way to check this is to ask them for their own business driving at work policy or handbook. If they don’t have one , ask them to comply with what you do for your drivers and company vehicles.

Q: How far does the need for risk assessment and policy reach in regards to subcontractors?
This may well be sufficient provided the policy has been fully explained to drivers and other office staff, who may not be aware of the policy, so they don’t phone drivers from the office. Regular updates to reinforce that the company does not require drivers to make or receive calls would also be helpful.

Q: Is business driver safety policy relevant for part time drivers?
Yes it is. If you ask anybody to make a business journey on your behalf, whether part time or full time, then you have certain duty of care obligations to meet with regard, not just to the safety of your drivers, but also other road users while they are out driving on your behalf. Everything applies as much to part time drivers as it does full time drivers. Even, if you use agency or subcontract drivers, you should ensure that these drivers adhere to your own policies and standards.

Q: Do Sole traders need to undertake written risk assessments?
You don’t but good practice would be for you to be able to demonstrate that you have completed vehicle checks, just in case you are involved in an incident. If you are using a vehicle over 3.5tonnes (ie a large van) you do need to keep records of your licence, vehicle maintenance records, driving hours records and copy of insurance to keep your Operators Licence.

Q: Our policy states ‘we do not require employees to make or receive calls while driving’ Is this sufficient?
This may well be sufficient provided the policy has been fully explained to drivers and other office staff, who may not be aware of the policy, so they don’t phone drivers from the office. Regular updates to reinforce that the company does not require drivers to make or receive calls would also be helpful.

Q: Is business driver safety policy relevant for part time drivers?
Yes it is. If you ask anybody to make a business journey on your behalf, whether part time or full time, then you have certain duty of care obligations to meet with regard, not just to the safety of your drivers, but also other road users while they are out driving on your behalf. Everything applies as much to part time drivers as it does full time drivers. Even, if you use agency or subcontract drivers, you should ensure that these drivers adhere to your own policies and standards.

Q: Would a home-based regional manager commuting to 3 different regional offices be making business journeys?
Yes. Private motor insurance will normally cover the insured driver to commute to and from their MAIN place of work only. Anything else, such as travel to other regional sites, would normally be classed as business use and for which the driver must have business motor insurance. In this case, the main place of business is home and journeys to all three regional offices, even if it is to go there for the whole day before returning home, would be classed as business journeys. It is highly likely that without proper business motor insurance, this driver would therefore be driving without insurance. If the driver were to be involved in a serious crash then the company could expect to be investigated as to whether it had ensured drivers were aware of this requirement and whether checks had been made by the company to ensure appropriate insurance cover was in place.

Q: Is managing driver risk important for companies with no commercial vehicles?
Absolutely – your legal obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 cover all staff who drive on business whether or not they are in a car or a commercial vehicle. Outside of commuting to and from their main place of work, any journey made by your employees is a business journey. As an employer you must assess and minimise the risks of such journeys so everything we discussed in the webinar applies to your business.

Q: Do handsfree phones, connected to the car via bluetooth, cause loss of attention?
The Transport Research Laboratory has recently released research that showed that the reaction time of the average driver is around 0.9 seconds while the reaction time of someone using a phone is 1.3 seconds for someone on a hands-free phone and 1.4 seconds for someone using a hand-held phone. The difference between handheld and handsfree is therefore minimal.

Q: Would you classify high mileage ie >20k annum as high risk and what other criteria would you use?
High risk drivers may have points on their licence, they may have poor concentration/awareness, they may not be very confident, or any number of other things. There is no definition but that is the point of a driver risk assessment tool – it will highlight the level of risk and also show you why they are high risk so you are able to do something about it. Age and mileage are good indicators for national stereotypes but not reliable indicators at an individual level – I would advise assessing purely on road knowledge, attitude and skill.

Q: How does the company’s duty of care apply to drivers who have taken a car allowance?
If members of staff take a car allowance to buy their own car, and if that employee then makes any business journeys in their own car, the employer still has the same duty of care obligations as they would for company car drivers. Who owns the car is not relevant to the risk – if an employer asks an employee to drive, then the employer is responsible for ensuring they do so in a legal, competent and safe manner with a valid driving licence and in a well maintained and legal vehicle.

Q: We have 700 employees – is it ‘reasonably practicable’ to call DVLA for every one?
Unfortunately a visual check does not guarantee that you are seeing the original as it is very easy indeed to get a duplicate licence. Not only do you need to check 700 licences annually but you should also be checking those with penalty points more often so rather than make the calls to DVLA yourself, companies like Defensive Driving are set up to offer this service for you.

Q: What is the definition of business driving?
Most insurance companies, although there are variations, specify personal motor insurance as covering you to commute to and from your main place of work. This means any other journey in conjunction with work is a business journey – even working from a second office on Fridays. This would certainly include any journey for which business mileage is claimed but business journeys can include driving to training courses, exhibitions, the post office, regional offices, as well as the obvious trips to see customers and suppliers. You would therefore need business motor insurance as your personal insurance wouldn’t usually cover you for these journeys.

Q: Do volunteer drivers for charities need business insurance?
As long as they don’t claim more than the HMRC approved amount for business mileage then they probably don’t need business insurance. Most insurance companies will cover voluntary work however some require the driver to inform their insurance company first while others don’t. The charity still has a duty of care to make the driver aware of what standards are expected of them. How much you would need to do depends on how frequently they drive for you.

Q: What is a grey fleet driver?
A grey fleet driver is a member of staff who makes business journeys, on behalf of their employer, but doesn’t have their own company car. Most often they will use their own car, but they may also borrow a colleague’s company car or use a pool or hire car. Most insurance companies, although there are variations, specifiy personal motor insurance as covering you to commute to and from your main place of work. This means any other journey in conjunction with work is a business journey – even working from a second office on Fridays. If any of your employees are using their own cars for these journeys, they are classed as grey fleet drivers, and they would therefore need business motor insurance as their personal insurance wouldn’t usually cover them for these journeys. This would certainly include any journey for which business mileage is claimed but business journeys can include driving to training courses, exhibitions, the post office, regional offices, as well as the obvious trips to see customers and suppliers.

Q: Who is responsible for checks on drivers of hire cars – the hire company or the employer?
Both. The employer, because the employee is driving on behalf of the employer and usually driving on the company insurance. Also the hire company as they may need ID for the driver, and if the hire includes insurance cover. Most rental companies will not issue a car without sight of the licence. The hire forms have mandatory fields which must be completed, unless the company have an insurance certificate lodged with the hire company.

Q: Can a business driver have more than one place of work for insurance purposes?
It depends on the exact wording of your insurance policy. If someone is using their own car, private motor insurance will usually only permit them to travel to and from their main place of work. Any more than that would require specific business insurance. Therefore, say if you work at a different office on Fridays, or you travel between multiple sites for the same employer, standard personal insurance probably won’t cover you for those journeys.