What should the government do?
In the UK, companies are required by law to report any at-work safety incidents, injuries or deaths to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), however this does not include incidents caused while driving for work. Compulsory reporting of work-related road casualties would give organisations an incentive to act proactively to improve their safety record. It would also make it easier for companies with poor safety records to be prosecuted, with stiff penalties applied if poor safety management is found to be at fault.
It has also been recommended that compulsory reporting to the HSE, along with consistent recording of journey purpose in official crash data, would give a fuller picture of the scale and causes of at-work driver crashes and enable targeted prevention efforts .
What can employers do?
Organisations that employ people who drive for work have a duty of care to ensure their drivers are safe, whether they are company car, moped or van drivers, professional drivers of commercial vehicles, or employees driving their own vehicle on company business.
Road safety must be a priority at the very top of the organisation. Work-related road safety initiatives should be supported by a culture that considers road crashes an unacceptable risk, and prioritises safety.
There are three main ways that employers can help make our roads safer: managing drivers, managing vehicles, and managing journeys. All of these activities can be informed and supported by effective crash, incident and near-miss recording and monitoring, which forms an important foundation for any company developing or improving a road risk management programme and policies.
Recording crash data and driver behaviour
Employers should record all incidents involving staff driving for work, including bumps, scrapes and near misses, to help identify common causes and possible solutions. For example, frequent scrapes or wing-mirror damage may indicate a need for remedial training on reversing and manoeuvring.
Drivers should be made aware of the importance of reporting all incidents, however minor, and be aware of reporting procedures. They should be interviewed following serious incidents to determine why the incident occurred and how it could have been avoided.
Robust crash reporting is a simple way to monitor drivers and identify who might be in need of further training or other interventions. Brake also recommends that companies make use of telematics to monitor speeds and driver behaviour. A study of telematics in US trucks fleets found telematics reduced speeding by up to 42%, and improved fuel economy by up to 9% . Another study found video monitoring of drivers, when used alongside constructive manager feedback, can reduce risk-taking by half .
It is estimated that up to 95% of crashes are down to driver error . It is therefore essential that people who drive for work understand the importance of safety and the simple steps they can take to ensure their safety and the safety of others. An effective training and education programme is best developed and applied alongside work to record and analyse crash data and driver behaviour. For example, remedial training can be provided to drivers identified as taking particular risks of being involved in certain crash types, while a driver awareness-programme can be shaped by the types of crashes company staff are involved in and biggest risks identified.
Some common at-work driver errors can be addressed by training, to ensure their driving and manoeuvring skills are up to standard. For example, research has identified that van drivers are much more likely to crash when reversing or manoeuvring, or to cause crashes by tailgating, than drivers of other vehicles . Training can be provided upon employment, at regular internals, and following crashes and when certain issues are identified. However it is also important that any skills-based training is accompanied by awareness-raising education that addresses the main risks drivers face and pose to others and stresses the importance of them prioritising safety as well as how to do this.
At-work drivers are known to be more susceptible to a wide range of risks. A Brake survey of drivers found that people who drive for work are more likely to speed, use a mobile phone at the wheel, drive when sleepy, and drive while distracted by stress, than people who do not drive for work . Some of the main risks faced by at-work drivers are outlined below.
At-work drivers are often expected to prioritise schedules over safety, tempting them to speed: a survey of drivers in Britain, France, Germany and Spain found that 37% of those who admitted speeding said they did so due to pressure to meet schedules .
Employers should regularly review schedules and routes to allow time for delays and ensure drivers are not put under pressure to speed. Drivers should be clear that safety comes first, and that they should never endanger themselves and others by speeding to meet a schedule.
At-work drivers are often expected to stay in contact with their employer, colleagues or customers, leading to temptation to use a mobile phone at the wheel. They may also engage in other distracting activities at the wheel, such as eating and drinking, or adjusting sat navs, due to time constraints.
Employers should educate drivers on the risks of distraction, and make it clear that drivers are never expected to do anything else at the wheel besides drive. Implementing a company-wide ban on using hand-held and hands-free mobile phones while driving will help to send a clear message that safety is the priority. At the same time, all staff should be instructed to end calls quickly and politely if someone picks up while driving.
At-work drivers are particularly at risk from tiredness, because they typically spend longer hours at the wheel: four in ten tiredness-related crashes involve someone driving a commercial vehicle . Long-distance drivers and shift workers are particularly high risk .
Employers should take the risks of fatigue into account when planning journey schedules, and ensure drivers have time for sufficient rest before and between journeys. Employers should also plan enough time for drivers to take rest breaks every two hours, and educate drivers in the importance of this, and of responding immediately to signs of fatigue by taking a rest break.
Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a condition that causes sufferers to briefly stop breathing while they are asleep. This interrupts sleep and causes excessive daytime sleepiness. People with OSA are prone to nodding off during the day, and are about seven times more likely to have crashes . Professional drivers are known to be higher risk for OSA.
Employers should educate drivers and managers on the symptoms of OSA, and refer suspected sufferers for diagnosis and treatment, ensuring they are taken off driving duty in the meantime.
Research has linked stress with risky driving and increased crash rates . Driving for work, or to and from work, can be stressful in itself: car commuters report significantly higher levels of stress than train commuters . Drivers may also be distracted by work-related stress or personal stress, and may be reluctant to raise this with their line managers despite the risks.
Employers should hold confidential meetings with drivers, at least annually, to allow them to raise any concerns about stress or other mental or physical health problems. Managers should be educated on the risks and how to tell if one of their drivers may be suffering from stress, and drivers should be encouraged to come forward with concerns at any time. Employers should also review workloads and schedules on a regular basis to ensure drivers are not put under unreasonable pressure that could cause stress.
Inadequate vehicle maintenance can cost lives. Employers must ensure vehicles driven for work – whether company or employee-owned – are well maintained, particularly safety-critical components such as brakes and tyres, to protect their drivers and members of the public and avoid costly insurance claims and repair bills.
Companies with vehicle fleets should buy or retrofit vehicles with the latest safety features that are shown to help prevent or reduce the consequences of crashes, such as autonomous emergency braking , and features to protect occupants and vulnerable road users in the event of a collision .
Organisations with large vehicles, such as trucks and buses, should ensure their vehicles are fitted with the latest blind spot-minimising technology, such as side and rear sensors and blind spot cameras. There is growing evidence that these technologies help prevent crashes: one study found that side sensors could prevent up to 39,000 crashes every year in the US . They can also be useful for smaller vehicles: reversing cameras and rear sensors have been found to reduce the rear blind spot on cars by 90% .
The simplest way to reduce the risk vehicles pose to people is to reduce the number of vehicles on roads. This not only makes roads safer, it also benefits the environment. Transport accounts for a fifth (21%) of UK greenhouse gas emissions, with road transport making up the most significant proportion of this .
Some business travel can be avoided altogether through the use of communications technologies such as teleconferencing and webcasts. Where business travel cannot be avoided, managers should instruct employees to choose the most sustainable options possible, usually public transport, or walking and cycling shorter journeys. If these options are not practical, employees should be encouraged to car-share if possible, and/or plan multiple appointments in the same area on the same day to minimise repeated journeys.
Journeys and routes should be planned to avoid town centres, residential areas and schools, or anywhere else there are likely to be more people around. Routes should be planned to stick to motorways and other major roads wherever possible: this is not only safer for drivers as these roads have a lower crash risk , but will also lessen the risk to people on foot or bike.
If a driver must go through towns, villages or cities, they should be instructed to slow down to 20mph (32km/h) or below, and take the utmost care when manoeuvring or turning.
 Reported Road Casualties Great Britain 2012, Department for Transport, 2014
 Strategic review of the management of occupational road risk, Transport Research Laboratory, 2014
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 THINK! Don’t drive tired, Department for Transport (undated)
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 Effect of a very low-energy diet on moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnoea in obese men: a randomised controlled trial, British Medical Journal, 2009
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Page last updated: October 2014