What Are Your Duty Of Care Obligations To Company Car Drivers?
Each and every company has a legal obligation and duty of care to their company car drivers, as defined by regulations covering the type and use of vehicles, special health and safety legislation and regulations covering the carriage of dangerous goods by road – to name but a few.
These regulations include the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, which places a legal duty of care on all employers to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of all their employees, and the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 Act. Under this act, companies and organisations can, for the first time, be found guilty of corporate manslaughter as a result of a gross breach of a duty of care regulations.
The main responsibilities imposed by this legal framework fall on the shoulders of the vehicle owners, in this case the company, and on its obligations towards its drivers.
Duty of care regulations dictate vehicle is place of work
It is important to note that, from a legal viewpoint, a vehicle is considered to be a place of work. And companies have a duty of care responsibility to their drivers to make sure that vehicles are fit for purpose and that they are as safe as possible while out on the road, with adequate and appropriate insurance.
Under employment law, an employer also has a duty of care towards the employee and members of the public who may be affected by his or her work activities.
The employer is also “vicariously liable” for the acts of his employees, including injuries or death negligently caused by one employee to another, or to a member of the public injured by his employees.
Who can be found liable?
Liability often has to be shown or proved in the case of an offence. For example, where the employee drives recklessly or breaks speed limits it is the driver’s responsibility alone.
However, where the speeding was due to inappropriate scheduling of appointments by the employer, liability could be shown to be joint and both company and driver could be prosecuted.
Where an employee has been provided with an asset, such as a car, that is not fit for purpose and there is some kind of failure or offence as a result, then it is the company that is likely to be liable.
Managing duty of care
Employers have a responsibility, under various National Health and Safety Executive guidelines, to actively manage health and safety in the workplace, including vehicles.
There need to be work vehicle policies, procedures and safe systems of work in place that reduce work related risks, including the on-the-road activities of employees, so it is vital that risks arising from company vehicles are properly managed.
The company’s written car policy should explain driving at work, the driver’s responsibilities and those of the company. It should be made available to all drivers who should sign to say that they have seen it.
Risk identification and management should be all about common sense. Companies need to look at what might happen, assess the impact of potentially damaging events and take steps to prevent the worst from arising.
This means that under duty of care obligations, an employer must take reasonable care to protect employees from the risk of foreseeable injury, disease or death whilst they are at work.
There are three key areas of risk that companies need to give attention to:
- Driver vetting and selection
- Induction procedures
- Licence checks
- Accident reporting procedures
- Vehicle fit for purpose test
- Vehicle maintenance and inspections
- Vehicle security
- Journey planning
- Managing driver fatigue
- Speed management
How to tackle duty of care obligations
There are a number of ways that companies can tackle professional duty of care towards their drivers, from carrying out further education through risk assessments and in-vehicle driver training, to classroom-style training courses, e-training and manuals.
Companies should also carry out safety checks on the vehicles themselves, making sure they are serviced regularly and maintained and should also carry out checks on drivers including licence checks and driver vetting.
Every aspect of this process should be recorded in internal management systems and procedures to ensure that, in the event or an incident or accident, there is a clearly defined and identifiable audit trail available.
Duty of care and grey fleet management
Many companies still allow their employees, especially those that don’t qualify for company cars, to use their own cars on company business and reclaim a mileage allowance.
Such vehicles are typically referred to as ‘grey fleet’ vehicles, because, although they are not owned by the company, the company does have a professional duty of care towards them and could be held liable for death or serious accidents in which grey fleet drivers are involved.
Research shows that grey fleet vehicles are typically older than company-owned vehicles. In addition, they may not have been serviced regularly, the condition of tyres may be questionable or they may be in generally poorer condition.
In many instances, drivers may only have social, domestic and pleasure insurance rather than the necessary cover for business use.
But, if anything happens while such a car is being used on company business, it is the employing company, as well as the driver, who can be held liable.
It is certainly in the company’s best interests to ensure its employees only use grey fleet vehicles that are fit for purpose, that are serviced regularly and on which regular condition checks are carried out, as there is a whole raft of legislation under which a company could be found negligible in such circumstances.
Need further information on managing your grey fleet? Read more about our Risk Management services. If you need more information on managing legal duty of care towards your drivers, then please get in touch. Our team of experts offers a fully outsourced fleet risk management service ensuring that your internal approach in both efficient and compliant.
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Read our report exploring how businesses currently manage their grey fleet and what their understanding of duty of care regulations are with regards to grey fleet vehicles, the survey data reveals how organisations currently review and manage their duty of care obligations towards grey fleet drivers. You can view the report here.