Employers are well placed to make a valuable input towards reducing death and injury on our roads, says Rick Wood, training and quality assurance manager for road safety at RoSPA
Driving is the most dangerous activity that most people do in the course of their working lives.
In fact, in the UK it is estimated that between a quarter and a third of all road crashes involve a person and/or a vehicle driving for work at the time. This means that every week about 200 people are killed or seriously injured in “at-work” crashes. And this is in the UK alone. The figures will be much, much higher when the rest of Europe is included.
Work-related road risk is therefore both a major road safety and occupational safety issue affecting not only vocational drivers – people, such as bus and coach drivers, whose job is driving – but also the vast range of workers who cannot do their job without travelling on the road at some point.
The introduction of Driver CPC (Certificate of Professional Competence) a couple of years ago was one of a series of changes to the transport industry aimed at making the roads safer for everyone.
Safer driving is a key focus of the Driver CPC scheme, and as well as the obvious benefits that this brings for drivers, their families and other road users, it is also hoped that businesses – particularly smaller firms – will experience the financial cost savings that stem from fewer accidents.
With a significant overlap between safer driving and environmentally-friendly driving (also known as eco-driving), Driver CPC should also lead to a reduction in fuel consumption – good for businesses keen to demonstrate they are doing their bit for the environment, while saving them money as well.
We will look at Driver CPC in more detail later in this article, but let’s take a moment to consider the wider issue of occupational road risk.
Health & safety
Here at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), we have promoted the importance of “managing occupational road risk” (MORR) for 15 years, campaigning for organisations and regulators to address work-related road risk as a mainstream health and safety issue.
As part of this ongoing campaign, we strive to raise awareness of the legal, business and moral reasons for taking seriously the safety of employees on the road, as well as the safety of all those on the road around them.
RoSPA believes that when companies manage occupational road risk effectively, they play a vital part in road casualty reduction. There is some concern that the training is simply seen as a tick-box exercise, however, this is a waste of its true potential. Continuous improvement is a key part of driving careers (whether professional or private) and the Driver CPC scheme provides a framework for ongoing and regular training, enabling individuals to keep their skills fresh.
As well as the obvious ethical reasons for preventing road accidents, having an effective approach to managing occupational road risk can also bring significant cost savings.
Accidents are hugely costly, including in terms of lost business, administration, legal fees and rising insurance premiums. Research by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has suggested that for every £1 recovered through insurance after an accident at work, between £8 and £36 may be lost through uninsured costs. Accidents can also impact negatively on worker morale, and, particularly when they involve liveried vehicles, can adversely affect corporate reputation.
Preventing accidents, therefore, makes good business sense. If firms, and particularly SMEs, are worried about the cost of prevention – and in the current difficult economic climate, this is entirely understandable – consideration should be given to the substantial savings that will arise from fewer accidents, and also from driving more fuel efficiently. When options for protecting the bottom line by increasing sales and turnover are limited, avoiding the losses caused by accidents becomes all the more important.
There are also legal prompts for taking work-related road risk seriously.
Guidance from the HSE makes it clear that employers have a duty under health and safety law to manage the risks faced by their employees on the road. The police also look at work-related factors when road crashes are investigated, and we have previously seen company directors successfully prosecuted for manslaughter after crashes that could be linked back to working practices, including where drivers had been allowed to spend excessively long hours at the wheel.
With April 2008 marking the implementation of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act, there has also been a great deal of speculation about if and when we will see this revised law used in relation to work-related road deaths.
To effectively address occupational road risk, RoSPA advocates that organisations need a robust management system, rather than a series of disjointed one-off interventions. Training is an important part of this system and risk assessment, preferably on a driver-by-driver basis, will identify specific training needs, meaning scarce resources can be directed to where action is really needed.
There has been concern that training itself has simply been seen as a tick-box exercise by some organisations. However, this is a waste of its true potential. Continuous improvement is a key part of driving careers (whether professional or private) and training – and specifically the Driver CPC scheme, which provides a framework for ongoing and regular training – enables individuals to keep their skills fresh.
How does Driver CPC work?
Driver CPC was introduced for professional bus and coach (PCV) drivers in September 2008 and was extended to cover professional lorry (LGV) drivers in September 2009. Professional drivers of lorries of 3.5 tonnes and upwards and passenger-carrying vehicles with nine seats or more are covered by the Driver CPC arrangements and just holding a vocational licence is longer enough for someone to work as a professional bus, coach or lorry driver.
Those who gain their Driver CPC are issued with a Driver Qualification Card (DQC), and it will be mandatory for a driver to carry this while driving. Drivers must complete 35 hours of periodic training in seven-hour blocks every five years to maintain their Driver CPC.
Those who are new to the driving profession can acquire their Driver CPC at the same time as their vocational licence. After this initial acquisition, these new professional drivers will need to meet the periodic training requirements.
Existing professional drivers do not have to pass the initial qualification, but they are subject to the periodic training requirements and must complete their first 35 hours by 9 September 2013 (PCV) or 9 September 2014 (LGV).
Among the subjects on the Driver CPC syllabus are safe and fuel-efficient driving, tacograph and drivers’ hours rules, customer service and dealing with emergencies.
There are penalties for professional PCV or LGV drivers who drive without a Driver CPC and for those who are not carrying their DQC while they are driving. There are also penalties for operators who cause or permit a driver to drive without a Driver CPC or DQC. Any EU enforcement body, including the police, VOSA and the DVLA, are able to ask drivers for proof of their Driver CPC – so it makes sense to ensure your organisation is compliant.
Take the opportunity
From its outset, the Driver CPC scheme has offered a real opportunity for the professional driving industries to enhance their role in respect of road safety. RoSPA is delighted to be playing a part in this – by being an approved training centre, offering a range of solutions to help organisations and individuals comply with the regulations.
But, the challenge remains to raise the profile of managing occupational road risk among organisations that do not employ professional drivers in the traditional sense, but which have, for example, fleets of sales reps, managers who drive to meetings or workers who travel between sites.
Please be assured that RoSPA will continue its work to encourage these firms to take road safety seriously, recognising that the passenger transport and haulage industries are not the only ones that have a road safety role to play.
Employers of all kinds are well placed to make a valuable input towards reducing the tragic toll of death and injury on our roads. If they lead by example, we could see road safety becoming a greater priority throughout society in general.
For more information
For more information about Driver CPC and how you can ensure your organisation is compliant, visit www.rospa.com/drivertraining/cpc/default.aspx or call RoSPA’s training team on 0121 2482233.