Driving for Better Business

Driving for Better Business – Van Driving

The CPA is supporting the Driving for Better Business (DfBB) initiative, which is a free-to-access government-backed National Highways programme to help employers reduce work-related road risk, protecting staff who drive for work, and others who they may share the road. Their mission is to improve the levels of compliance by sharing good practice and demonstrating the significant business benefits of managing work-related road risk more effectively. One of the DfBB’s early focusses is van driving, where they say that vans are the construction sector’s ‘Achilles heel’, putting companies, drivers and other road users at risk.

Started in October 2021, the Driver and Vehicle Services Agency (DVSA) and police are focussing enforcement activity on the construction sector, to highlight the issues, educate drivers and companies, and remove dangerous vehicles from the road. The campaign was inspired by spot checks at key sites earlier this year by National Highways which showed a 40% prohibition rate among vans. The most common issues were insecure loads – particularly involving incidental but hazardous items such as loose materials and tools; broken lights; worn and damaged tyres, fuel leaks, missing mirrors and unlicensed drivers. They say that the UK has 4.5 million vans, with up to one million in the construction and civil engineering sectors and remind construction employers that they have a clear legal duty of care to ensure roadworthiness and legal compliance for their own fleets and those of dependent subcontractors. Road casualty data shows that vans have the highest rate of other road user deaths per mile and were involved in 20 motorcyclist fatalities, seven cyclist fatalities and 33 pedestrian deaths in 2019. 64% of those killed in crashes involving vans were vulnerable road users.

In an open letter to industry, the DfBB say that unless the loads that are carried are safe, drivers are putting themselves and other people at risk during a journey and when they come to unload. They add that even small items can kill or seriously injure someone if they come off a vehicle at speed. Delays and disruption on the road network because of load debris cost the UK economy millions of pounds every year. Load shift incidents on the road and in the workplace are both foreseeable and completely preventable and that drivers, vehicle operators and those loading vehicles or trailers for others must play their part in preventing deaths and injuries.

They remind employers that the Road Traffic Act 1988 and the Road Vehicles (Construction & Use) Regulations 1986 say that drivers must make sure that anything transported on or in a vehicle or trailer is secured so that it does not move during the journey and put people at risk. The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 says that employers and the self-employed whose work puts others at risk must take steps to protect both their own employees and anyone else who could be at risk and that everyone has responsibilities to make sure that the load is safe and it’s not enough to simply assume the driver is the only responsible party once the vehicle leaves a site or rely on not having had something go badly wrong before.

The DfBB say that:

• If you operate vehicles or load vehicles for other people, you must take steps to protect the driver, other road users, pedestrians, and anyone involved in loading or unloading. You must make sure drivers and people loading vehicles have the right training, information, and equipment to do their jobs safely. It is not enough to assume that the driver will make it right and your legal responsibilities do not end when the vehicle leaves your site.

• If you drive vehicles, make sure you know what you need to do. Challenge poor practice in the workplace where you can and ask for training if you are asked to take something out and you are not sure how it should be secured. Don’t assume it will be ok just because you’ve always done it that way. Check your securing equipment every time you use it and don’t use damaged equipment.

Their final comment is that there is no excuse for sending dangerous vehicles onto the road network and putting people at risk. Appropriate enforcement action will be taken where individuals and companies are found to have recklessly broken the law.

The driving for business website contains free to access support materials, case studies, media articles and a van driver information toolkit in module format to help educate van drivers through raising awareness of key issues around compliance, safe driving, vehicle roadworthiness and fitness to drive. A link to the DfBB website and and the van driving learning modules website are below.