LICENCE CHECKING: Question time
16 February 2010
Our exposé of Government departments' licence check practices triggered a Parliamentary question and several alarming responses, as Paul Barker reveals
After BusinessCar met with senior Labour politician Dr Stephen Ladyman toward the back end of 2009 to discuss the shambolic Government safety standards in terms of licence-checking employees using vehicles on work business, he pledged to put a written question to Parliament to establish the scale of the problem and the varying levels of compliance. The results illustrate the problems fleets face in terms of proving total duty of care adherence with what are an unclear set of current rules.
Dr Ladyman's question to the house, which comprises several parts, was as follows:
What mechanisms are in place to ensure that staff - who drive a vehicle for which (i) his department and (ii) one of its executive agencies is responsible - have valid driving licences, and what mechanisms are in place to ensure that staff - who drive their own vehicles in the course of their official duties for (i) his department and (ii) one of its executive agencies - have valid driving licences and insurance; what guidance is issued to those staff in respect of road safety while carrying out official duties; what steps are taken to monitor compliance with that guidance; what requirements are there on such staff to report to their line managers accidents in which they are involved while driving in the course of their official duties; and are such reports investigated.
The various departments were required to post a response on Hansard, which keeps a record of Parliamentary proceedings. BusinessCar then asked company car risk expert Nigel Grainger of Fleet Risk Consultants to look over the responses and give his verdict on the effectiveness of each department's policy.
Foreign and Commowealth Office
The Transport Management Team request and hold copies on file of driving licences of all FCO staff who require hire of official vehicles, and visual checks are carried out every six months. This is in line with Freight Transport Association (FTA) regulations. Staff are covered under a central insurance policy while using official cars for official duties.
A programme of courses are in place to up-skill drivers, which looks at driving techniques in difficult driving situations. All accidents involving FCO Fleet vehicles or affecting FCO Services drivers are documented and investigated in accordance with law.
No checks are made on the licences of those staff who use their own vehicles in the course of their official duties. Staff should ensure that their own insurance policy covers use for business purposes. There is no requirement for checks to be made.
No guidance is issued to staff in respect of road safety while using their own vehicles for official duties in the UK. Guidance may be issued to those staff using their own vehicles overseas although this would be specific to the post.
There is no requirement for staff to report accidents in which they are involved while driving their own vehicles in the course of their official duties.
Nigel Grainger says.
"There is no mention of grey fleet in their answer. Does it not exist, or are they just not aware of their responsibilities? No accident reporting, investigation or remedial planning."
Ministry of Justice
Policy, rules and guidance related to driving for work, and occupational road-risk are stated in: Ministry of Justice Departmental Car Scheme User Guidance; Ministry of Justice Staff Handbook; Ministry of Justice Corporate Health and Safety documentation.
MoJ staff who drive either an official vehicle or their own vehicle in the course of their duties must complete an initial driver declaration form and submit a copy of their licence. A driver licence and insurance check form must also be completed once a year by staff, with their line manager, for staff using their own vehicle on official duties.
Line managers are required to check the driving licence of each individual using a departmental vehicle on a six-monthly basis. In addition to these requirements, staff submitting a claim form seeking reimbursement for mileage expenses incurred while driving their own vehicle in the course of their duties have to sign a declaration that they hold a valid driving licence; the vehicle has a current MOT and their motor insurance policy covers the use of the vehicle on official business.
Nigel Grainger says.
"Who is qualified at managerial level to check licences, which the DfT recommends is done every six months?"
Ministry of Defence
MoD policy directs that all service personnel and MoD civilians using vehicles provided by the department, and including privately owned vehicles used for official duties, must have a valid driving licence for the type of vehicle being used together with an appropriate level of insurance for private vehicles. Responsibility for applying this policy and checking compliance lies at business unit level.
MoD personnel and MoD transport policy directs that all business units, including agencies, provide advice on road safety to all staff. Such advice is normally provided by defence road safety advisors or at unit level by unit road safety officers. This advice is supplemented and supported by a rolling programme of campaigns such as the Defence Road Safety Week. The policy also provides guidance for line managers on causes of impairment of driving and preventative measures, and on accident reporting requirements, which also apply to private vehicles being used on official duties. It is a requirement that all incidents or accidents resulting in fatality or serious injury are investigated and lessons identified are shared to prevent recurrence.
Nigel Grainger says.
"Are business unit level checks audited?"
The travel guidance issued to staff in HM Treasury and the Debt Management Office requires that driving licences are checked when a member of staff first hires a vehicle for official business and they are subsequently re-checked on an annual basis. Where a member of staff uses their own vehicle on official business, when making a claim for reimbursement of their expenses they acknowledge that they have valid insurance for business use that also covers passengers, possess a valid driving licence, maintain the vehicle in a roadworthy condition and, where appropriate, has a valid MOT certificate and maintains the vehicle in accordance with the manufacturer's schedule. It is the claimant's line manager's responsibility to verify the insurance status of the claimant and any material changes to the insurance should be reported to the line manager.
When opting to drive on business, employees are reminded that-on long journeys, a break of 15 to 20 minutes should be taken every two hours, the driver should ensure that they are familiar with the controls, particularly in hire vehicles, before setting off, and that it is illegal to use a mobile telephone while driving, and they should switch them off to avoid the possibility of distraction. Officials and line managers are required to report all accidents and incidents that occur during the course of work. This includes accidents whilst driving on official business. Any reported incidents involving injury are investigated and compliance is normally monitored through internal audit procedures.
Nigel Grainger says.
"Licences should be checked every six months. How does a line manager check the insurance status? The statement "Should switch off mobile phones" is an interesting one - how did they reach that conclusion I wonder? Who investigates the incidents they mentioned? "
Department for Culture, Media and Sport
The department currently does not have any vehicles for which it is directly responsible, and as such employees who choose to use motor travel for official business must use their privately owned motor vehicle. If an employee chooses to use their vehicle, they must satisfy certain insurance conditions details, which are made on the department's internal website. It is the employee's responsibility to ensure they understand and fulfill these conditions. Employees are required to declare when making claims for travel and subsistence that they know and understand the insurance requirements, and that they are covered accordingly. There is no requirement for employees to demonstrate that they are licensed to drive. No specific guidance is issued to employees on road safety, nor does the department monitor compliance. However, under the Civil Service Code, the department does expect its employees to accord with the law at all times when on official business, and should incidents arise behave appropriately. No accidents while driving on official business have been recorded, and there is no expectation that an employee will report an accident as the department has been indemnified by the employee's insurance. Should the employee be injured in an accident, the employee will become subject to the department's sickness absence policy.
The Royal Parks
Staff in The Royal Parks (TRP) who are required to drive TRP vehicles must first undertake induction training. As part of the induction, staff must show a current valid driving licence. Thereafter line managers are required to monitor their staff for compliance with the training and inspect the driving licence once a year. Confirmation of the check is recorded. Accidents must be reported to the line manager and the fleet manager and each vehicle has a log book to record such occurrences. All accidents are investigated. Staff are not encouraged to use their own vehicles for work but exceptionally where they do they are required to confirm they have appropriate insurance as part of our reimbursement procedures.
Nigel Grainger says.
"What are the insurance conditions the Department for Culture, Media and Sport mentioned? It is illegal to either operate a vehicle without a licence, and cause or permit the same, so their statements fall down somewhat. They should be reporting accidents/incidents as it is impossible to indemnify the department. The Royal Parks has a good system apart from not checking licences every six months As The Royal Parks is part of Culture, Media and Sport, why the inequality of systems?"
The Cabinet Office owns one minibus that is used by the Emergency Planning College. The licenses of staff are visually inspected by the trainer prior to attending the driving training course specific to this vehicle. Staff are trusted to give accurate information. Equally, staff are trusted to notify the department should their circumstances change.
The Cabinet Office does not check employee's driving licenses prior to the use of private vehicles for official journeys. The Cabinet Office guidance states that if a member of staff uses their own vehicle for official travel they are responsible for ensuring the following insurance cover obtained at their own expense: business cover insurance in addition to fully comprehensive insurance for the vehicle; either fully comprehensive insurance and business cover or third party insurance and business cover for any motorcycle.
The Cabinet Office has limited requirement for car hire. Provision of car hire services are contracted via our supplier, Arval, which is responsible for checking that drivers are suitably qualified, which is further endorsed by in-house authorisation documents that state drivers must be qualified.
The Cabinet Office does not specifically advise staff on road safety if not using the Cabinet Office vehicle (minibus for which specific training is given).
The Cabinet Office would be informed by both the contractor and the person(s) involved should an accident occur. There is no specific guidance should an accident occur in a member of staff's own vehicle.
Nigel Grainger says.
"How often does driver training happen? Why are licences not checked? Are staff trusted in a similar way to the MPs were trusted with their expenses? Why does a motorcycle need third-party cover and a vehicle fully comprehensive? Why do they think that delegating licence checking to Arval is a good idea? Why are there no accident guidelines? How would they know if an accident has occurred or not?"
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