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13 April 2022
As legal restrictions have come to an end, roads have seen an uptick in traffic. In fact, the ONS is recording traffic levels edging towards pre-pandemic levels. Colin Paterson discusses the risks for organisations that employ people who need to drive for work and how to mitigate them.
AS THE legal restrictions brought about by Covid came to an end in February, more and more of us have been returning to work as businesses and organisations do their best to get back to normal. Tradespeople are joining delivery drivers, gig economy drivers, health and social care workers, taxi and coach drivers, as well as more cyclists on the roads as delayed construction work picks up at pace, the daily commute returns, hospitality opens up, retail returns and ecommerce habits continue.
At the same time, many local authorities have reconfigured their city centres to include more cycle and bus lanes, pedestrianised areas and electric vehicle charging points, with some also introducing clean air zones. Drivers are also having to get used to recently introduced changes to the Highway Code and navigate an increasingly complex and diverse array of vehicle and fuel types.
Against this backdrop it makes sense to pause and assess your health and safety practices when it comes to driver policies and how they should be adapted.
Driving for work
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE 2014) is clear: “Managing the risks to employees who drive at work requires more than just compliance with road traffic legislation. The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 requires employers to take appropriate steps to ensure the health and safety of their employees and others who may be affected by their activities when at work. This includes the time when they are driving or riding at work, whether this is in a company or hired vehicle, or in the employee’s own vehicle. There will always be risks associated with driving. Although these cannot be completely controlled, an employer has a responsibility to take all reasonable steps to manage these risks and do everything reasonably practicable to protect people from harm in the same way as they would in the workplace.”
The rules apply whether the company, organisation or employee owns the vehicle.
The pandemic, supply chain issues, climate change, there seems to be disruption to our transport systems on an almost weekly basis. One thing is certain, change is accelerating and your duty of care over your drivers needs to keep up.
There are new rules
The Highway Code has been updated and key points include the introduction of the new risk-based hierarchy of road users which means that drivers, regardless of what vehicle they drive, have more responsibility to be aware of pedestrians and cyclists. The new ‘Hierarchy of Road Users’ places pedestrians at the top, as the most vulnerable, followed by cyclists, car users and finally lorry, truck and bus drivers.
In practice, this means drivers must leave a distance of at least 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists and drivers turning into a road should give way to pedestrians waiting to cross.
There are new vehicles
The other major change affecting drivers is the transition to EVs. The government has committed to investing £1.6 billion in a nationwide network of 300,000 public electric vehicle (EV) charge points by 2030, the year when its ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars comes into place.
The Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Strategy includes a £450 million Local Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (LEVI) fund, intended to support projects such as EV hubs and on-street charging for those without driveways.
The existing £950 million Rapid Charging Fund will support the rollout of at least 6,000 super-fast charge points across England’s motorways by 2035.
Investment in infrastructure is essential to keep pace with rising demand for electric vehicles. In its regular round up of EV sales Next GreenCar reports that by the end of February 2022, there were more than 420,000 pure-electric cars on UK roads and more than 780,000 plug-in models if including plug-in hybrids (PHEVs).1
The increasing numbers of electric vehicles being introduced onto fleets, makes it critically important for drivers to be educated on the unique operation, maintenance and driving strategies required to maximise safety and efficiency. Feeling confident about making the switch, will ensure they get the most out of the vehicle, making the transition of the fleet to electric run smoothly.
When it comes to electric mobility, we are also seeing e-scooters being introduced in our towns and cities as local authorities explore public rental trials. As our city centres transform, they are likely to become part of the last-mile solution as well as supporting trips to meetings as an increasingly visible part of the urban mobility landscape.
Amongst the leading players emerging in the UK market, TIER, Lime, Voi, Dott, Spin and many more, there is a responsible recognition that safety education and training is a vital ingredient for their successful adoption and integration into the modern road user network, as shared urban spaces increasingly involve a mix of pedestrians, cyclists and electric transport.
The reality is that inexperienced e-scooter riders present a danger to road safety, and training should be considered a vital tool in the minimising of risk for all road users.
Looking at the risk factors
Anyone who drives for work will have passed their driving test and the employer needs to check they have the appropriate licence and then check it again at regular intervals to identify any penalties that indicate illegal or reckless behaviour.
Those that have to make a certain amount of stops to fulfil their work obligations, such as a delivery driver fulfilling ecommerce or hot food orders, or a care worker with multiple people to check in on each day, are faced with added time pressures as well as the stress of normal driving.
Poor driving habits can also impact on vehicle performance, wear and tear, fuel and maintenance costs.
Psychometric testing, driver coaching and team workshops are just some of the ways in which you can address these issues head on and give your employees the knowledge and confidence to drive safely.
The digital revolution
What’s also new is that the pandemic has transformed opportunities to train drivers in different ways. Driving is one of the most dangerous activities that your employees will do, so you simply can’t leave driver safety to chance. There is now a powerful range of digital, on-road and workshop-based driver training tools that can empower drivers to make better decisions behind the wheel.
The driver behaviour, coaching and training industry has undergone a significant transformation over the past couple of years, with a noticeable uplift in digital training, in particular because of the pandemic.
It has enabled the exploration of new ways of learning. Looking at ‘nudge theory’ for example. After spending time evaluating training programmes with our customers, it became clear that there are advantages to supporting businesses in communicating safety practices on a more ongoing ‘little and often’ basis. We know that reinforcing and reminding employees of policies and procedures works but this needs to be in an engaging and manageable way for the business and drivers.
Driver safety can present a significant risk to UK businesses and organisations simply because so many fail to take the basic steps required to fulfil their obligations. With a predicted boom in new drivers within the logistics industry, procedures must be implemented now to effectively educate drivers and keep other road users safe. Not only can it improve the driving and awareness of individuals, but it can also expose them to new technologies and help to develop basic vehicle safety assessment skills.
Many of those who drive as part of their jobs, also work in sectors where there are significant job vacancies, such as construction, transport, food and care. Investing time and effort into their wellbeing, training and safety will be paramount for those companies wanting to secure the staff they need to thrive in the future.
Colin Paterson is head of marketing at DriveTech. For more information, visit www.drivetech.co.uk