EXCLUSIVE: Government driver licence checking hypocrisy exposed
14 July 2009
Author: Tristan Young
BusinessCar's investigation highlighted huge Government failings to meet its own recommendations
Only one Government department is following best practice on driver licence checking and only 40% follow the Government's own advice and check all work-drivers' licences regularly, according to data gathered by BusinessCar under the Freedom of Information Act.
The results show the Government could be sending unlicenced and uninsured drivers onto UK roads, and is falling short in its duty of care obligations to staff.
BusinessCar asked 21 Government departments and agencies about their policies for method and frequency of driving licence checks for at work drivers, both of company cars and grey fleet vehicles. The worrying results revealed only one Government agency used the DVLA's database to check licences - the DVLA itself - with no other Government departments doing better than a visual check by internal managers, a system acknowledged by risk experts as open to abuse. Only seven other departments check the licences of every member of staff driving on work business.
While there is no law to say that fleets must check driving licences, there are plenty of Government publications that say fleets should check them regularly. One expert in this field contacted by BusinessCar added that most of the Highway Code was not law, but was often used by prosecutors in road traffic offence court cases.
When BusinessCar put the findings to road safety minister Paul Clark and asked why so few departments follow the Governments' own guidance on driver licence checks when the UK's aim is to become the world's leader for road safety, and that one-third of road deaths happen when driving for work, officials at the DfT responded: "Every death on the roads is a terrible tragedy, but figures released last month show that every day last year one less person died on the roads than in 2007 and that Britain now jointly has the safest roads of any major nation in the world.
"While this news is encouraging, seven people are still dying on the roads every day. We will continue to do everything we can to keep Britain's roads the safest in the world and work to reduce casualties among all road users, including those who drive for work.
"We know that those who drive for work are over-represented in road accidents. That is why we encourage all employers to take an active role in reducing the risks faced by workers who drive as part of their job through the 'Driving for Better Business' scheme.
"The Department also publishes good practice guidance setting out the kind of measures which employers can take to reduce these risks but it is up to each employer to adopt those policies and practices which will best match the risks faced by their own employees."