|Motoring - Check Your Employees Driving Licences|
|The Legal Aspects of Motoring in the UK|
|UK Driving Licence Categories|
|Standard Driving licences for Passenger Cars|
|Minibuses and Commercial Vehicles|
|Endorsement Offence Codes|
|Holders of Overseas Licences|
|Driving Licence Checking Procedures|
|Drivers Licence checklist|
|Appendix A - Vehicle Category Descriptions|
|Appendix B - Annotated Sample Driving Licence|
|Appendix C - DVLA medical standards|
|Appendix D - Endorsement Offence Codes|
|Appendix E - Designated countries (non-EC) and Gibraltar|
There are many different categories of driving licence, with variations arising in the level of entitlement, vehicle classifications, and the licence holder’s country of origin. All these issues make it very important that you ensure every driver on company business has a full and valid driving licence. Whether or not the company actually provides the vehicle that the employee is to drive on company business is an irrelevance. If an employee is driving on company time, for business purposes, the employer has a Duty of Care over the actions of that individual and, consequently, an absolute responsibility to ensure that the employee acts within the law.
Ensuring that every individual in an organisation is correctly qualified to drive their vehicle clearly presents some very real, practical problems. There is obviously some reliance on employees’ honesty. There are also several widely utilised policies within the UK fleet environment that can help employers and fleet operators to ensure compliance with the regulations and that also satisfy an employer’s Duty of Care responsibilities.
The approach taken to ensure that the employer has taken all reasonable steps to check drivers’ eligibility to drive will depend on a company’s size, location and management structure.
In the event of a worst-case scenario, where a fatal incident has occurred involving an employee without a valid licence, the employer would be required to provide evidence of the policies and procedures in place to try and prevent such an occurrence. A poor policy or substandard implementation could lead to an element of responsibility falling on the company or its relevant managers/directors under Duty of Care obligations. The best defence is, therefore, a robust and well-managed policy, which checks that all employees hold a valid licence and are eligible to drive the vehicles being used for company business. Such an approach should protect the company and its managers/directors, should the worst happen.
This section outlines some best practice driving licence checking policies that you can use to check and monitor your employees’ eligibility to drive, and suggests appropriate applications for such policies.
The policies are intended to provide guidance only. Selecting the policy that best fits your company will depend to some extent on your company’s corporate culture and perceived levels of risk exposure. Companies that employ many drivers or higher risk drivers, such as young drivers within their probationary driving period or overseas workers, may need to increase the level or intensity of the checks. On the other hand, companies with more mature staff, a low staff turnover and low accident rates, may consider a less rigorous policy as satisfactory. Carry out a positive risk assessment to identify the underlying risk levels in your organisation and establish the most suitable policy.Whichever policy you decide is best suited to your organisation, the first step is to check the original driving licences of all employees who will drive on company business. You will base an employee’s eligibility to drive on the findings of this check. Keep a signed, dated copy of the licence on record.
Best practice suggests that driving licence checks are carried out on an annual basis. To help with administering this process, it may be worth timing the checks to coincide with other annual operations, such as issuing VED discs or renewing insurance policies.
Original driver licence checks
A check of the driver’s original licence should form the first stage of any driving licence policy, and is the primary step in ensuring driver eligibility. This is probably the most common form of vehicle licence check and a very robust method, usually suitable for both large and small companies alike.
Check an employee’s licence as part of the induction process when they first join the company, or when their job description changes such that they are required to drive on business. Examine the employee’s original driving licence, check for any problems, and then photocopy it. Get the copy dated, signed and countersigned by the driver and the manager responsible (e.g. fleet manager, HR director), to show that the original licence has been seen.
Keep this copy on record. In the case of employees with the new photocard licence, photocopy both the card and the paper counterpart.
If you work in a larger organisation, with employees spread over several sites, it may be possible to get the employee’s line manager to inspect the original licence, photocopy it and obtain signatures and countersignatures. This approach delegates some responsibility to the line manager. Make sure that they are conversant with driving licence types, eligibility, endorsements and vehicle categories.
Repeat these checks each year for all drivers who are expected to carry out regular driving during company time. Do not forget to check the licences of occasional drivers before they are allowed to do any driving for business purposes.
Where practicable and possible, check the driving licences of named drivers who are not employees, such as employees’ partners. Even if the named drivers are only going to use a company vehicle for private use, the check will ensure that only qualified drivers use the vehicle and that the vehicle remains properly insured for all users.
Some very large organisations, where the employees are spread over many sites or a wide geographical area, rarely coming into contact with fleet personnel or senior management, opt for a self-declaration system. Essentially this system depends on drivers completing and returning an annual document, asking them to confirm that, since their licence was last checked, they:
The written self-declaration should be returned to the relevant fleet manager, where it is kept on file with a copy of the original licence, as evidence that the employee still holds a valid licence. Under this system, employees must be held to be honest in their declarations. Make sure that the necessity to complete the forms accurately is clearly embedded in the terms and conditions of employment, and make it a disciplinary offence to falsify the document. Where employees are making selfdeclarations, put a random auditing process in place to ensure that the policy is actually effective. Carry out documented, random sample checks on employees’ original driving licences on a regular basis. These spot checks are essential in demonstrating that your organisation has a robust monitoring and enforcement system in place, to minimise the opportunity for false declarations. Again, do not forget to include named drivers and occasional drivers in this system. Often, named drivers’ declarations can be made on the same form as the employee’s, saving administrative time and effort.
DVLA checks offer the most robust and foolproof method of carrying out driving licence checks, and offer a strong and defensible policy. The checks are particularly effective if you suspect that a number of employees may be driving without a valid licence, or may have amassed significant penalty points without declaring them.
Unfortunately, there are a number of ways for employees to beat the system of checking original driving licences. For example, employees may obtain a duplicate licence, claiming that the original has been lost. In reality, it has not been lost, but the employee is about to be convicted of an offence. Once they have a duplicate licence, they send it to the courts to have the points entered onto it, thereby keeping the original licence free from endorsements. This original licence, free from endorsements, is then presented annually to the fleet manager. In this way, in an extreme case the employee may even have their licence revoked via the totting-up system, but can still be presenting an original, clean licence to the company. Ways of tightening these loopholes are currently being investigated by the DVLA.
The only practical way to ensure that no cheating is going on is to deal directly with the DVLA, which can provide details on the employee’s current licence and endorsement status. The only potential barrier to this system is that the employee’s consent is required, as personal data held by the DVLA are covered by the Data Protection Act. Approaching employees for consent can meet with resistance, as the move implies mistrust.
The DVLA can provide a one to three year mandate system, during which period the employee allows the company unlimited access to the employee’s driving records. The threeyear mandate was introduced to assist in reducing the administrative burden of this system. A number of other companies provide a similar service via the DVLA’s system, providing a fully-administered solution, with associated costs.
You may also want to include occasional and named drivers in these checks.
In some instances, you may be advised to combine more than one of these policies. For example, you may introduce a physical driving licence checking system but, due to concerns over an individual driver or limited group of drivers, may need to make checks directly with the DVLA. Combining policies in this way will result in a robust and defensible policy against potential abuse.
Regardless of the system you choose to implement, you need to make it an absolute requirement for drivers to inform their employer straightaway if they are convicted of any of the following:
This information must be provided for the company to carry out adequate risk management assessments. If employees collect an unacceptable number of points (even before disqualification), the company may wish to instigate one of the following:
Monitoring and controlling the system
When evaluating risk under Duty of Care and health and safety legislation, many companies believe that having a detailed written policy is enough in itself. In reality, the policy is merely a guiding principle or statement of intent to address the potential risk, and as such, the existence of a clear policy in itself is not adequate.
A clear and unambiguous monitoring and control system must be implemented, to ensure that policy and practice meet the aims of ensuring that all drivers are checked for eligibility to drive the category of vehicle they operate. There must be demonstrable procedures and records that clearly show that some form of licence check is carried out on a regular basis and that where any checks have been omitted or have brought to light unacceptable risks, action has been taken to address the situation.
If one or two drivers do not submit their driving licences for checking or fail to make self-declarations, company policy must assume that they do not hold valid licences, or have accrued endorsement points. Such cases clearly identify unacceptable risk and action must be taken to secure a copy of the driver’s licence, or obtain a DVLA licence check. If the licence cannot be viewed, any business driving (or private use in a company-provided vehicle) must be suspended immediately. The risk associated with any driver driving illegally and without insurance must be deemed great. This applies to any person driving on company business, whether they are administrative staff or directors. An individual’s position in a company is no defence for not carrying out a licence check.
Record any cases of unacceptable risk and actions taken as evidence of effective implementation of the company policy. To take no action after a significant risk has been identified could be potentially far worse than doing nothing in the first place.
The cost of implementation versus the cost of negligence
The main costs involved in instigating and maintaining driving eligibility checks are those of administrative time and effort. These costs are usually minor, although this will depend on the policy and procedures implemented, and the size of the company. In the majority of cases, annual checks will be sufficient.
There may be a further associated cost for employees if they are required to bring their original licences to main office sites, but these checks can normally be fitted around business meetings which require their presence at the offices.
The potential costs associated with an accident involving an employee who turns out to be without a valid driving licence, particularly where a fatality has occurred, can be astronomical. In addition to the human tragedy, the company could find members of its management team or board of directors held liable, as well as the company being prosecuted under Duty of Care, and health and safety legislation. In addition, the amount of management time involved in accident investigations would be significant.
Review of policies
The rules and regulations governing eligibility for driving in the UK are changed periodically. Review your checking procedures regularly and make changes as necessary. Details of the current situation can be found on the DVLA website at www.dvla.gov.uk