Reducing Risk Within Your Fleet. Part 3: The Driver
Posted on 13th April 2021 at 10:50
Fatigue, time pressure and distraction is a key theme running through this article. Managing operations around these risks will have the biggest benefit in reducing risk within your fleet.
Mobile phones and hands-free technology:
Road safety charity, Brake and Direct Line, found that texting at the wheel is widespread, 30 percent of drivers admitting to sending or reading messages while driving and an even higher proportion, 44 percent of drivers aged 18-24 admitting to it. The current call is that hands-free technology should also be banned to include phone calls and the use of any mobile Apps.
In line with current legislation, if the driver is required to make or receive calls whilst driving, a policy for using mobile technology is required. The driver must always have proper control of the vehicle. In some cases, it may be appropriate to disallow the driver to use a mobile phone, unless the vehicle is stationary and the engine switched off.
There are many competencies to identify when selecting drivers to minimise a major source of risk. At the initial stage of recruitment you will already check employee references, pre-employment health checks, confirm a clean driving licence and observe the individual driving your vehicles. We also recommend as standard:
A driver’s handbook for your business
Ongoing driving licence checks
Checking driving entitlements - LGV/HGV
Provide regular updates on company policies
Record written and verbal communication when updates are made that affect drivers
Monitoring health and fitness to drive:
Routine staff appraisals, team meetings as well as ad-hoc discussions should feedback to and from drivers about health issues. If a manager suspects there is an issue with a member of staff, it is their responsibility to question it.
It is employer’s duty to ensure all members of the team are fit for work, for drivers, this will also include medical checks. It is your employees’ responsibility to ensure they do not take charge of a vehicle if they do not feel fit to do so. Any conditions or ailments that could affect their ability to drive must be reported - these can include allergies, headaches, cold and flu symptoms, problems with sleep, neck or back pain, sprains or other injuries. Some conditions are visible but also mental health assessments are vital to ensure drivers are safe at all times whilst driving your vehicles.
The Highway Code states that drivers must be able to read a vehicle registration plate in daylight from a distance of 20 metres. If the driver needs glasses or contact lenses to read the plate, they must wear these at all times when driving. Bi-annual eye tests are recommended as par for the course.
Drugs and Alcohol:
Legal blood alcohol limits differ throughout the United Kingdom: 35mg of alcohol per 100ml of breath in England and Wales. 22mg per 100ml in Scotland and Ireland.
It is an offence to drive with any of 17 controlled drugs, which includes illegal and medical drugs. Limits are set extremely low but rule out exposure from passive smoking. Police officers carry out road-side tests for cocaine, cannabis and screen for ecstasy, LSD ketamine and heroin at the Police station.
Clear policies are required for all fleet operators on the use of substances as well as giving advice on impairments caused by some non-prescription medicines, such as; off-the-shelf treatments for flu symptoms.
Activities and events both inside and outside of the vehicle can cause any level of distraction from an animal in the vehicle to passing an accident on the road. Driver’s due care and full concentration is paramount at all times whilst operating a vehicle.
Any type of distraction can affect driving standards and decision making skills. Research shows that talking on the phone slows down reaction time, thirty percent more than drink driving.
Complacency can be the biggest cause of an accidents - a momentary lapse in concentration when following regular routes and routines can result in a serious incident.
Company policy can highlight other distractions such as drinking and eating while the engine is running, smoking is also not permitted as the vehicle is classed as a workplace.
Regular reviews of these compliance issues along with training and education does significantly reduce this risk.
Tiredness can kill:
There are many causes of fatigue - late nights, insomnia, alcohol and drugs, caffeine intake, stress, personal issues and relationships. Most of these factors are completely out of the employer's control. However, regular health checks, discussions and monitoring will significantly reduce this risk. It is also key to remind drivers that crashes are most likely to happen in the following circumstances:
during long journeys on monotonous roads
between 2am and 6am or between 2pm and 4pm
after eating or, even one alcoholic drink
after having less sleep than normal
if taking medicines that cause drowsiness
after working long hours or on journeys home after long shifts, especially night shifts.
Time pressure can lead to deterioration and ineffectiveness in any area of life. When this is applied to a driving situation, there is a huge increase in crash risk as some drivers will have greater propensity to engage in risky driving behaviours including; speeding, dangerous overtaking and committing traffic rule violations.
Effective planning, traffic management schedules and realistic timetables can help managers and supervisors alleviate time pressures on their drivers.
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