As responsible fleet operators, we routinely service and maintain our vehicles to ensure they are safe to drive. This practice is unquestionable, and most of us know our obligations. We will have a schedule; we use competent people to conduct inspections, servicing and repairs; and we keep records.
We know a lot about our vehicles. The engine performance, fuel efficiency, tyre usage, body condition, maintenance history and where they have been. But can we say the same about our drivers, the people in control of these vehicles?
History has informed us that the HGV five-yearly medical (over the age of 45) isn’t a robust or rigorous examination. It is the most basic of medical checks, yet it does not cross-check with existing medical records and relies on the driver providing complete and accurate medical details about themselves. If you think otherwise, check out the 19 recommendations made by Sheriff Beckett at the inquest of the Glasgow bin lorry crash. Recommendations were aimed at the medical profession, the DVLA and operators and we have had five years to implement them. I would argue that we still don’t know much about the fitness and roadworthiness of our drivers.
A recent study conducted by Loughborough University highlighted that HGV drivers have higher than average rate of obesity, diabetes and blood pressure. The study also highlighted that they have a significantly reduced life expectancy, in comparison to the national average. Of the sample group, almost half of the drivers scored abnormally for anxiety and depression. All of this is before we consider other impairments such as eyesight, fatigue, drugs, alcohol and distraction.
HGV drivers are exposed to a multitude of occupational health risks. Their shift is a long period sitting in the cab. It includes unsociable hours, tight schedules and the psychological stress of being on the road. Yet there is no common industry practice to monitor their fitness and roadworthiness to be at the wheel. Of course, there is the driving for work policy and the annual declaration, but this is insignificant compared to the management resources spent on the roadworthiness of vehicles.
FORS goes some way to helping to manage driver fitness. The FORS Standard has specific requirements (and a supporting manager workshop) for managing driver fitness, health and impairment. In 2011, FORS launched the Safe Urban Driving course, and well over 100,000 drivers have now undertaken on-cycle training. Additionally, a TfL study has indicated that 12 per cent of those drivers have taken up cycling as a result of attending the course.
For some top tips, advice and good practice on managing drivers, check out the Industry Code of Practice (ICOP) – Effective Driver Management. It was developed in collaboration with the CILT’s Transport and Logistics Safety Forum and TfL and is free to download on the FORS website.