The Corporate Manslaughter Act was strengthened in 2008 to target company directors as well as their drivers in cases of road deaths involving vehicles used on business. So what does a prudent business need to do to minimise its risks?
Employers have a duty of care to ensure that employees driving on business hold a valid driving licence. The photo card driving licence which was introduced in 1998 has a ten year validity period. Our experience shows that over 80% of all drivers are unaware they expire and need renewing. Others are also unaware their address is no longer valid.
Next, employers need to be sure that the driver is competent. Statistics show that nearly one in three business mileage drivers have penalty points on their licence. This could be an indicator of a driver’s competence and behaviour behind the wheel.
And it’s not just company-owned vehicles that are affected. Directors and business owners may not be aware that privately owned vehicles used for business journeys are treated exactly the same as company owned vehicles. Directors have an equal responsibility under the law to ensure these vehicles are also roadworthy and correctly insured.
The Police now treat every road death as ‘an unlawful killing’ and have the power to seize company records and computers during their investigations. They could bring prosecutions against company directors who fail to provide clear policies and guidance for their employees driving at work.
It is vital for a company to have a ‘Driving at work’ policy in place covering every element of their business vehicle operation, no matter how few vehicles are involved and who owns them. Every employee driving for business is required to sign up to the policy. In this way directors can reduce the risk of being prosecuted and a possible custodial sentence.
Graham Evans, Practice Leader - Risk Solutions