Why are driver checks so important for HGV drivers?

Driver checks are an essential part of hiring or vetting a new employee, but they’re far more than just a box ticking exercise. As far as fleet managers are concerned, performing the appropriate driver checks is in everyone’s best interests – from the legal interests of the company, to the interest of the general public, to the interest of the driver’s personal welfare. (Even all the most advanced vehicle safety technology on the market can’t compensate for an inexperienced driver without the proper credentials!)

Many of these checks will be done automatically in the course of the normal hiring process, and this week we’ll be examining them individually, and highlighting exactly why they’re so vital.

Medical checks

Much like many employees who drive intensively on company time, HGV drivers must undergo a specific medical exam in order to qualify for the job. In this case, every new driver must pass a medical exam with accompanying paperwork (D4), which will be submitted to the DVLA by the assessing physician. Then, the DVLA will make a final decision as to the candidate’s fitness to drive.

This test evaluates a number of factors, including eyesight (more strictly so than other driving tests), as well as neurological state, alcohol and drug use or dependency, diabetes, heart conditions, sleep disorders, and mental health. It’s your responsibility as an employer to make sure this check is done, as it’s in both in the interests of the driver’s personal welfare, and to stop you (as their employer) from falling afoul of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.

Keeping eyes on the road

It gained a renewed sense of importance in the aftermath of the Glasgow bin lorry crash, as the follow-up investigation found that opportunities were missed to clarify the driver’s medical condition, which may have ultimately averted the tragedy. (This incident also spurred the development of our revolutionary StopSafe technology, which is designed to prevent similar events from ever happening again.)

Sleep disorders and fatigue are a particularly important aspect in the test, and it’s something that fleet managers are well-advised to bear in mind indefinitely, too. Some relevant statistics:

  •  40% of fatigue-related crashes involve commercial vehicle drivers
  •  One in six crashes resulting in death or injury are fatigue-related
  •  Drivers on the road at 6am are twenty times more likely to fall asleep at the wheel than those driving at 10am

Criminal background check

As we touched on above, this is generally covered as part of the normal job hiring process anyway, but it’s worth taking extra care when hiring drivers. Fleet managers will want to appraise themselves of any unspent motoring convictions, However, investigations into this must be kept proportionate and relevant to the role in question.

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act limits the extent to which an employer can base their hiring decisions on information uncovered during the background check. Now, unspent motoring convictions are quite solid grounds for refusing to take an employee’s application further. However, the same doesn’t apply to convictions which have been ‘spent’ – in other words, if the employee or candidate has committed a criminal offence but served their rehabilitation period for it, and not reoffended in a given period.

Right To Work check

This is another important one that you’ll have likely covered exhaustively during the hiring process, but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless. All workers must be assessed for their right to work in the UK, regardless of their race, nationality or ethnic origin (which thereby avoids discrimination claims). The law also regards it as the employer’s responsibility to keep a record of the check, including the date it was performed, and hold accurate records in a safe and secure place. Drivers who are found in breach of the Right To Work regulations in the UK can not only open themselves up to severe legal action, but leave the company vulnerable too – so it’s worth checking the records again!

Reference with previous employers

Fleet managers can also check with their employee’s previous employers for character references, or seeking clarification on select aspects of the above. However, much like with the criminal records process, you must be very careful with your line of questioning, so that you don’t open your company up to any claims of discrimination or privacy breaches. Keep it relevant, concise and on-topic, and if you’re not 100% sure it’s always best to hold off, while you ask the advice of a legal expert.

Telematics deal

While it can all seem like a lot of hoops to jump through, it’s vital to know the law when it comes to your drivers, as well as your responsibilities and the details of your duty of care. Even small details uncovered during medical assessments or other background checks could make all the difference as to whether your driver is fit for the roads or not. Ultimately, it’s these sort of details that can end up saving lives, whether that of the driver or those of the general public. We really can’t overstate the importance!

Here at Vision Techniques, safety is our passion, and many products in our vast range of vehicle safety products are designed with life-saving measures in mind. We’ve already touched upon our StopSafe system – our VT Banksman and Reversing Radar System, and our VT TurnSafe system, are all designed primarily to safeguard human life. You can browse the best products for your fleet right here on our site, or alternatively give our friendly sales team a call on 01254 679 717, and we’ll be happy to see how we can help!