Duty of care advice for fleet managers and company car drivers

Fleet managers and company car drivers have a duty of care to make sure employees and the public are not put in danger. Here's everything you need to know to stay safe and legal.....

Fleet car manager with a clipboard and cars

At its simplest, "duty of care" for fleet managers and company car drivers means "health and safety" – but before you roll your eyes and sigh, you need to know that it’s vitally important to you and the business you run or work for.

Following correct duty-of-care procedures is important for the sake of employees, the future of your company and the general public. In today’s litigious world, failing to adhere to the rules could be disastrous for your firm's finances.

In this guide, we'll explain the need-to-knows, both for the business itself (via the fleet manager) and for the members of staff who have a company car to use for work.

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What is fleet car duty of care for a business?

This is multifaceted, because not only is a company responsible for the safety of an employee who is driving on business, but it can also be held "vicariously liable" for the actions of that employee.

For example, if an employee is prosecuted for breaking a speed limit, that employee is solely responsible. However, if the employee was speeding because of unreasonable scheduling of appointments by the employer, both parties could be held liable.

That’s why it’s important for a company to have a robust health and safety policy in place. That policy should be written down, and read and agreed regularly by all company car drivers. At a minimum, it should cover three main areas: drivers, vehicles and journeys.

1. Safe drivers

A company’s drivers should be thoroughly vetted before ever driving a company vehicle.

As part of that, the employee’s driving licence should be scrutinised, and if they’re deemed suitable, they should be subject to a comprehensive induction process, to ensure they are fully aware of all that will be expected of them.

Drivers should also undergo training to ensure they’re safe on the road, and it should be refreshed periodically.

2. Safe vehicles

A company’s fleet car choice lists should have only completely appropriate vehicles on it. For example, if a business expects a staff member to drive from London to Glasgow, it would be unreasonable to expected them to do it in a city car.

In addition, the company must ensure that the car being provided to an employee is safe to drive before that staffer gets their hands on it. A company must also ensure that the car is serviced and maintained according to official schedules, and repaired as soon as it requires it.

And talking of repairs, the company has a duty to ensure that the car is properly insured at all times.

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3. Safe journeys

It is vital that a driver’s scheduling is worked out in advance, and is reasonable. That allows them to prepare for a long journey ahead of time by getting a good night’s sleep, and working out places to stop for breaks to make sure any fatigue is properly managed.

If a driver has more than one appointment in a day, a reasonable time must be allowed between each one, so they can stop for lunch.

That also means a driver will not be required to speed between appointments, and therefore will feel less stress. Excess pressure from an overly intense schedule will undoubtedly have a negative effect on an employee’s mental health.

If a staffer has an accident in such a scenario, the business they work for will likely find itself subject to legal proceedings.

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What is duty of care for a company car driver?

It is a driver’s duty to make sure their fleet vehicle is kept in roadworthy condition at all times.

So, while a company must take care of servicing and repairs, the person using the vehicle must ensure that the tyres are in good condition and are at the correct pressure, and that fluids such as oil, coolant and windscreen washer fluid are kept topped up.

If a driver notices something amiss with their vehicle, it is their duty to report it right away so it can be put right.

On the subject of reporting, an employee must also inform their fleet manager immediately if something untoward occurs with the vehicle, such as it being involved in an accident, being vandalised or being stolen.

And if the driver is stopped and charged with a driving offence, such as speeding or driving while unfit through drink or drugs, they must tell their employer immediately.

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Fleet car duty of care – conclusion

When it comes to driving a fleet car on business, everyone involved has a duty of care.

A company must ensure that a driver is in a safe, appropriate and legal vehicle. It must also make sure they don't put their staff under so much pressure that they take risks on the road.

A driver, meanwhile, must always drive within the law, and must make sure the vehicle is in a roadworthy condition.

Only by being completely open and working together to achieve these aims will both company and driver avoid potentially expensive legal costs.

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