What should fleet employers be doing to protect the health, safety and welfare at work of all their employees, clients, visitors and the general public? Investing in commercial liability insurance can help to safeguard your business should any claims be made against you.
According to the UK Department for Transport statistics, in the past 10 years approximately 63,000 people have been killed or seriously injured on the road between the hours of 8pm and 6am. In a single year, 2018, fatigue was named as the cause of 62 fatal road accidents and more than 1,500 road traffic accidents on UK roads.
It’s estimated by the DVLA that 20 per cent of accidents on motorways and monotonous road types may be caused by the driver falling asleep at the wheel.
The dangers of fatigue among fleet drivers was recently highlighted by the Association of Fleet Professionals (AFP) after the prosecution of a welding company following the death of two of its employees for breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act. Two delivery drivers died when one fell asleep at the wheel of a company van while driving back to his employer’s depot after a night shift in which he had been on the road since the 4.30am the previous morning.
The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) reported that that he was suffering the effects of fatigue and may have fallen asleep at the wheel or experienced what were described as ‘microsleeps’. Because both men were on zero hours contracts there was an incentive to accept any work that was offered, with catastrophic consequences.
Who’s at Risk?
Here are some facts about fatigue whilst driving:
- Fatigue is a key contributor to the road accident toll, along with drink driving and excessive speeding.
- Approximately a third of all lethal fatigue crashes happen during public and school holidays.
- A person who has been awake for 17 hours has a driving ability comparable to a driver with a blood alcohol level (BAC) of 0.05 per cent. After 21 hours their ability is similar to a BAC of 0.15 per cent.
- Fatigue crashes are often severe as the sleepy driver makes no attempt to avoid or prevent the crash.
So, who is most at risk of a crash due to fatigue?
- Young male drivers
- Commercial drivers with irregular sleep patterns
- Those with medical problems such as sleep apnoea
- Shift workers and people working long hours (often on their way home)
- Rural drivers and passengers
- Those over 50 years of age
Protect Your Drivers
Fleet drivers working through the COVID-19 lockdown are facing exceptional risks due to fatigue. The virus has seen delivery drivers work longer hours and make more consumer drops. Fleet managers have a responsibility to ensure all drivers and vehicles are fit and safe to be on the road, with driving standards always maintained thoroughly. With grocery, home delivery and health service supplies operating 24-7, drivers are at risk of taking on too many work hours, which increases their potential road liability.
Here are some of the recommended rules to help fleet managers look after the welfare of their drivers.
New driver training and policies: Make sure that any temporary drivers still face the appropriate driver eligibility checks, undergo a proper induction process, and that they understand driver policies and all the standards you expect of them as they go about their work.
Online CPD: Online CPD driver training courses are being used to deliver fleet driver training to support the increased demand for drivers due to COVID-19. The training can be carried out at home, and provides an assessment of a driver’s skills, knowledge, history and attitude, tailored to each driver’s requirements. Areas include safety margins, fatigue, journey planning and even road signs. A comprehensive fleet driver training programme is vital to ensure drivers are safe and efficient.
Mental health: Fleets operating on zero hours contracts need to be particularly careful to not create situations where employees feel pressured into accepting work when they know they are tired, and when their own practices are prone to be flouted.
Applying telematics: Fleet managers can utilise telematics to better understand specific driver behaviours such as speeding, harsh braking, or erratic driving, allowing them to implement corrective measures such as additional training or driver support. See our blog on telematics for more information.
For fleet managers, commercial public liability insurance is key to protect you from compensation claims that are made against you if clients, suppliers or members of the public suffer personal injury or property damage as a result of your business.
Employers’ Liability insurance is a legal requirement if you employ members of staff, even if they are casual or part time workers. If you operate without this cover you could face serious legal ramifications which could affect the success of your business. Professional indemnity will protect you should a claim be made against you regarding professional negligence.