As we approach the onset of autumn and winter with dark mornings and evenings its worth spending a little time thinking about the impact this has on employees who have to drive as part of their work. Official statistics show that the rates of injury in road traffic accidents increase significantly from October through to January.

Any accident that injures an employee or damages company vehicles can be expensive; not just in the immediate costs but also the lost business opportunity costs. These accidents and their costs are immediately apparent. Less obvious is the effect on your business of increased driver fatigue.

Driving in the dark, in wind, rain or snow is known to increase the driver’s level of concentration. Increased concentration leads to tiredness. Tiredness leads to inefficiency. Being inefficient is not good business.

With a little thought and planning it should be possible to reduce the business risks and the potential impact on your business. For bus and truck drivers the risks are reduced by legislation which limits both their working hours and their driving hours. Tachographs measure compliance. Transport companies can work effectively within these limits. Other businesses can learn from them.

Plan journeys sensibly. Don’t plan a long journey to a client or worksite and expect an employee to do a full day’s work before returning home. When scheduling calls and work, take account of working time plus driving time. Employers can be, and have been, held criminally liable for road accidents; both where they have set employees unreasonable work and journey requirements and where they have acquiesced in employees working unreasonably long days.

For drivers of cars and light vans it is recommended that the working day, including driving, should not normally exceed 10 hours; and during the day they should not drive for more than 9 hours. The 10 hour working day limit may be occasionally be increased to 12 hours under special circumstances. Overnight accommodation should always be considered if the total travel time and working day exceeds 12 hours. If an overnight stay is expected, accommodation should be booked in advance. Employees should also be empowered to find accommodation where unexpected circumstances make it impossible to return home without becoming fatigued.

Employers should also encourage drives to follow the Highway Code; never driving for more than 4½ hours without taking a 45 minute break and taking shorter rest breaks after every 2 hours of driving or whenever they feel tired.

For any further information please call the Peninsula 24 Hour Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.