Driving a personal and company vehicle

This blog looks at the risks and control measures that should be considered in relation to employees driving on the organisation’s business. In particular, it the factors related to the driver, journey and vehicle.

Employers’ Duties

The Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974 requires employers to:

  • ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees
  • provide safe plant and systems of work, which includes vehicles driven by employees on company business
  • ensure the safe use, handling, storage and transport of articles and substances; this applies to anything being carried in a vehicle in connection with work
  • provide information, instruction, training and supervision to ensure safety, including while driving
  • provide a safe working environment, as regards facilities and arrangements for the welfare of employees at work
  • produce a health and safety policy, which must be communicated to the employees and address all the organisation’s health and safety issues, including occupational driving
  • inform, instruct, train or supervise the employees’ work activities to ensure compliance
  • ensure those not in their employment do not come to harm, eg other road users.

The Road Traffic Act 1991 requires employers to not cause or permit their employees to break any road traffic laws.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 make risk assessments, including of work-related driving activities, mandatory.

Under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER), employers have a duty to:

  • maintain vehicles in an efficient state, good working order and in good repair
  • assess the risk from using the vehicle, including ergonomics, manual handling and mobile phones
  • minimise the identified risks as far as reasonably practicable
  • provide appropriate information, instruction and specific training.

PUWER also covers situations where employers allow their employees to provide their own work equipment, eg their own vehicle.

Note: The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) apply to any motor vehicles not privately owned. However, more specific road traffic legislation does take precedence over these regulations when the vehicles are used on public roads.

The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 require employers to provide appropriate equipment and facilities for employees if they become ill or are injured at work.

Under the regulations, employees who travel must be provided with adequate first aid cover and employees working alone, in small groups in isolated locations or where access to accident and emergency facilities is difficult must also be catered for.

Under the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2003, employers have a duty to not cause or permit their employees to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving.

The Road Transport (Working Time) Regulations 2005 limit weekly working time (excluding breaks and periods of availability) and limit the amount of work that can be done at night. Also working time for drivers and crew of HGVs and Passenger Service Vehicles in the road transport sector.

The regulations provide for:

  • a maximum 48-hour working week on average
  • an absolute limit of 60 hours in any one working week
  • no opt-out
  • a maximum 10 hours’ night work in any 24 hours
  • 11 consecutive hours’ rest in every 24 hours
  • 45 consecutive hours’ rest per week
  • 45 minutes’ break after 4½ hours driving
  • 30 minutes’ rest after 6 hours working (but not driving)
  • 45 minutes’ break after 9 hours working (but not driving).

Under the Motor Vehicles (Wearing of Seat Belts) Regulations 1993, as amended, seat belts need to be provided and used as appropriate. In passenger vehicles, the presence of seat belts needs to be brought to the attention of passengers and the passengers need to be made aware of the requirement to use these seat belts when the vehicle is in motion. This requirement does not apply to buses.

Employees’ Duties

Under the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974 employees must:

  • take reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of others affected by their acts or omissions, including while driving
  • co-operate with their employer in order to help the employer meet their duties under the Act
  • use any equipment provided in accordance with information and training given by the employer
  • inform their employer of any health and safety shortcomings and any immediate danger to health and safety, including vehicle defects and driving arrangements.

Employees must also comply with all Road Traffic Acts and the Highway Code.

Assessing Work-related Road Risk

Before any improvements can be made to the safety of a company’s at-work drivers, it is necessary to identify and understand the hazards faced by drivers.

Employers should carry out a risk assessment for each driver, including employees who:

  • use their own vehicles for business purposes
  • use a pool or hire vehicle occasionally for work

The assessment should cover three fundamental areas of work-related road safety.

  1. The driver.
  2. The journey.
  3. The vehicle.

In addition, all aspects of the personal safety of the driver should be considered. This should include any dangers an employee could be exposed to while driving the vehicle and getting into or leaving the vehicle.

The Driver

The driver assessment should include:

  • attitudes towards driving
  • driving experience, including collision/incident history
  • conviction history
  • fitness to drive, including eyesight and alcohol and drug awareness

The Journey

The journey assessment should include:

  • exposure to risk, including mileage, road type and weather
  • fatigue issues, including total driving time and driving during antisocial hours and/or in peak traffic

The route should be planned in advance, and an up-to-date road map should be available in the vehicle so it is not necessary to stop to ask for directions. Ensure the destination, intended route and expected arrival time is known to others.

The Vehicle

The assessment of the vehicle should include:

  • vehicle type
  • engine capacity
  • safety features
  • roadworthiness

Companies that provide vehicles for driving at work must ensure that they are taxed, insured and MOT tested. As vehicles are supplied for work purposes, they are deemed work equipment under the requirements of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, and as such they must be regularly maintained and inspected. An MOT certificate is only verification that the vehicle was safe “at the time of the test”, however. It is not a guarantee or confirmation that it will remain safe for another 12 months. The same should be noted in relation to a typical service.

Components of a vehicle can fail owing to excessive wear or material failure. In order to avoid an incident involving component failure, the driver should make periodic checks to identify any potential defects, including the following:

  • tyres:- pressures, tread, evenness of wear
  • exhaust
  • lights
  • petrol/diesel level
  • oil level
  • radiator fluid level
  • windscreen washer fluid level
  • wiper blades: not broken or split

Other Risks

The risk assessment will also identify if there is risk of musculoskeletal injury. This can arise from:

  • poor posture and repetitive movement when driving
  • manual handling when loading and unloading

Lone working can present significant risks for those whose work mainly involves driving, eg in the event of a collision or serious incident, there may be no one to summon help.

Control Measures

Employers must determine if the control measures in place adequately control or significantly reduce the risks faced by employees on the road.

The risk assessment will identify the necessity of having a first-aid kit in the vehicle.

The following hierarchy of risk control should be followed.

  1. Eliminating the journey is the best control measure and therefore the first that should be considered. Is it possible to conduct the business remotely, e.g. by a conference call or by working from home?
  2. Using an alternative method of transport, e.g. rail or air.
  3. Considering driver issues, e.g. additional training, fitness to drive.
  4. Considering journey issues, e.g. limiting driving hours, limiting driving in poor weather conditions, taking regular breaks.
  5. Considering vehicle issues, e.g. safety equipment, roadworthiness.

Other control measures include the following.

  • While using vehicles for work purposes drivers and passengers must wear a seat belt.
  • Employers should ensure they instruct employees to avoid distracting activities while driving, e.g. eating.

Mobile Phones

It is a criminal offence in the UK to drive any motor vehicle while using a hand-held mobile phone, or to cause or permit another to do so.

The penalties for the use of mobile phones while driving are:

  • a fixed penalty of £100 (Aprox)
  • three points endorsed on the offender’s driving license

A driver can also be prosecuted for using a hands-free device if they are not in proper control of their vehicle when using the device.

In relation to the use of mobile phones, a person is considered to be driving if the engine of the vehicle they have control of is running. This is true even if the vehicle is stationary. Therefore, the regulations apply when stopped at traffic lights or in a queue of traffic, etc.

A mobile phone is hand-held if it is, or must be, held at some point during the course of making or receiving a call, or performing any other interactive communication function. This includes sending or receiving oral or written messages, sending or receiving still or moving images, or accessing the internet.

Use of Hands-free Equipment

Using hands-free equipment does not contravene the regulations if the driver does not have to hold the phone. Pressing buttons on a phone connected to the dashboard is permitted.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) urges employers to adopt the following policy with regard to mobile phone use: “no driver should use a mobile telephone or similar piece of telecommunications equipment (whether hand-held or hands-free) while driving”.

If it is essential for employees to be contacted while driving, company policy should advise the use of voicemail, a message service or call diversion, and to stop regularly — with the engine switched off and the key out of the ignition — to check messages and return calls.

An employer will not be liable for supplying a phone to an employee or for calling an employee who happens to be driving. However, if the employee answers, the employee commits an offence.

Employers must explain to employees about what they are expected to do in terms of driving and phone calls.

Satellite Navigation

Satellite navigation (satnav) systems can help drivers in unfamiliar areas. When used appropriately, they are a useful tool and much safer than frequent stopping to check a paper map, or trying to read a map while driving, and mean drivers are less likely to make late manoeuvres. However, addresses should be entered before the journey is undertaken, and care should also be taken when fitting satnav systems to ensure that they will not obscure the view of the road.

Smoking in Company Vehicles

Smoking is prohibited in all enclosed public places. As enclosed places include company vehicles, drivers are not allowed to smoke if there is a possibility that colleagues might consequently inhale their smoke. Smokers driving company cars, vans and lorries in England could be fined for smoking at the wheel if the vehicle could be handed over to a colleague from work later in the day.

Smoking is permitted in vehicles that are for the sole use of the driver and are not used as a workplace by anyone else, either as a driver or passenger.

Carrying Hazardous Substances

The Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations 2009 require any person involved with dangerous goods by road to receive training in relation to the goods being carried and safety procedures to be carried out in an emergency.

  • Only the minimum quantity of substances should be carried, in sealed non-breakable containers.
  • Adequate safety information on the substances carried should be readily available for the emergency services in the event of an accident.
  • The driver must be provided with adequate training on what to do in the event of an emergency (fires, spills, collision, etc).
  • Sufficient equipment to deal with emergency situations must be provided in the vehicle, such as fire extinguishers, gloves, cleaning equipment for minor spills.
  • Hazardous substances must never be carried in the passenger compartment but in the rear of the vehicle only.

Personal Safety of the Driver

Employees should be advised to consider the following.

  • Travel on main roads as much as possible.
  • Communicate the route and approximate time of travel.
  • Always try to have at least a quarter of a tank of fuel.
  • While driving, be alert to the condition of the vehicle. If a fault is suspected, do not wait until it breaks down. Stop somewhere appropriate, such as a garage, where there are a lot of people around, and seek assistance.
  • Carry sensible clothing in the vehicle, e.g. coat and suitable shoes, to change into if necessary.
  • When travelling to an unfamiliar office or hotel, call ahead and check the location and parking arrangements. On arrival, drive to the front entrance and, if appropriate, request assistance.
  • Park in well-lit areas whenever possible and check around the vehicle and the interior, especially the back seats, before re-entering.
  • Always appear confident.
  • If another driver in difficulty is seen, drive on and report it by phone as soon as possible.
  • Always carry a mobile phone, but never use it while driving.
  • Always have the doors locked while driving, especially at night and in busy areas.
  • In the event of a breakdown on a motorway telephone the emergency services, put on a reflective jacket, get out of the car by the nearside door and wait a safe distance off the hard shoulder. It is advisable to leave the passenger door open, so that in the event of a threatening situation it is possible to get into the car and lock the doors.
  • Do not give lifts to strangers.
  • Never read maps while driving.

Minimising Tiredness

To reduce the effects of tiredness on driving, the following should be considered.

  • A journey should never be started if the driver is already feeling sleepy.
  • Making long trips should be avoided between midnight and 06:00.
  • Driving should be avoided if the driver is taking medicines that cause drowsiness.
  • Driving for long distances after working long hours should also be avoided.
  • If possible, driving should be shared if travelling with colleagues.
  • Drivers should stop for a 15-minute break every two hours on a long journey.
  • If a driver starts to feel sleepy, he or she should find a safe place to stop (not on the hard shoulder) and take a short nap.

Employers could be held liable in the event of an accident where an employee has worked excessive hours.

Adjustment of Seating

Drivers should be trained to adjust their car seats properly.

A suggested sequence of adjustments is as follows.

  • Raise the seat as high as is comfortable to improve vision of the road.
  • Check there is adequate clearance from the roof.
  • Ensure there is maximum vision of the road.
  • Move the seat forwards until it is possible to easily fully depress the clutch pedal and accelerator pedal.
  • Adjust seat height as necessary to give good pedal control.
  • Adjust the cushion tilt angle so that thighs are supported along the length of the cushion.
  • Avoid pressure behind the knee.
  • Adjust the back rest so it provides continuous support along the length of the back and is in contact up to shoulder height — approximately 30° reclined from vertical.
  • Avoid reclining the seat too far as this can cause excessive forward bending of the head and neck, and may result in sliding forwards on the cushion.
  • Adjust the lumbar support to give even pressure along the length of the back rest.
  • Ensure lumbar support “fits” the back and is comfortable, with no pressure points or gaps.
  • Adjust the steering wheel rearwards and downwards for easy reach.
  • Check for clearance for thighs/knees when using pedals.
  • Ensure display panel is in full view and not obstructed.
  • Adjust the head restraint to ensure the risk of injury is reduced in the event of a car accident.

Time Spent Driving

Although driving time is limited and controlled for goods vehicle drivers by the use of a tachograph, there is at present no official limit to the time drivers of other vehicles spend behind the wheel. Driving for work is therefore considered part of an employee’s working day.

In brief, the Working Time Regulations set a limit of 48 hours’ working time in any 7-day period, and a requirement for a break of at least 20 minutes to be taken in any working period of 4½ hours. Driving time should therefore be considered and adequate breaks allowed for. Driving times should be limited and specified in the organisation’s safety policy (many organisation’s specify that drivers should take a minimum 15-minute break after 3 hours of continuous driving).

The Community Drivers’ Hours and Recording Equipment Regulations 2007 make provisions to:

  • make transport undertakings automatically liable for infringements committed by their drivers, although a defence is provided
  • make undertakings, consignors, freight forwarders, tour operators, principal contractors, sub-contractors and driver employment agencies responsible for ensuring that contractually agreed transport time schedules respect the new Community Drivers’ Hours Regulation
  • enable enforcement authorities in Great Britain to take action in respect of infringements committed outside Great Britain

Driving in Adverse weather Conditions

Driving in adverse weather conditions is dangerous, as the vehicle will not always behave in ways that might be expected. This makes driving tiring and stressful, due to the higher levels of concentration required. Adverse weather conditions include high winds, driving rain, fog, snow and ice.

Drivers are often ill-prepared for driving in these conditions and the following simple safeguards are often overlooked.

  • When driving in fog, switch on front and rear fog lights but remember to turn them off when conditions clear as rear fog lights dazzle drivers behind (it is also an offence to drive in clear conditions with rear fog lights on).
  • Slow down when driving in rain as wet roads are slippery and stopping distances are dramatically increased. Turn on dipped beam headlights. Be aware when passing large vehicles that excessive spray can temporarily swamp the windscreen and completely obscure the driver’s vision.
  • Driving in high winds is unpredictable, especially over bridges and exposed high ground. Sudden gusts, known as wind shear, can cause a vehicle to veer violently. The driver should be aware that large vehicles may veer around in high winds.
  • Snow, sleet and ice are treacherous as road conditions can vary in a very short space of time and patches of black ice may be present. In times of extreme cold, it is advisable to have warm clothes, blankets, suitable footwear and even a flask of hot drink in the vehicle in case of a breakdown.
  • Wherever possible, driving in adverse conditions should be avoided. All major road safety organisation’s warn drivers to avoid driving in snowy conditions. If driving in snow is necessary, consider having a shovel in the vehicle.

Leaving and Returning to a Vehicle

There will obviously be times where the driver has to leave the vehicle to take rest breaks, visit a customer, client or patient or to refuel. The safety of the driver should be considered in these situations, particularly if they are working during the hours of darkness, or in areas with a high incidence of crime or violence.

Note: mobile phones should be switched off in petrol stations.

Vehicle Breakdown

If the vehicle breaks down, the driver should pull off the road as far as possible and switch the hazard warning lights on. The nearest phone should be used, noting the road name and landmarks to give to the employer’s or owner’s breakdown organisation.

When driving at night, it is advisable to wear light or, ideally, reflective clothing when leaving the vehicle in the event of a breakdown. A reflective warning triangle should also be carried (this is a legal requirement in many European countries) which should be placed 150m behind the vehicle.

Record Keeping

Documentation relating to an organisation’s occupational road risk strategy may be required following an accident or fatality involving an employee making a work-related vehicle journey. Examples of records that may be kept include:

  • fleet policy documents, including all revisions and circulation
  • driver handbooks, including all revisions and circulation
  • risk assessment measures and updates
  • collision analysis exercises
  • training records
  • collision records, including those involving employees using their own vehicles
  • eyesight checks
  • licence checks
  • ergonomic risk assessments
  • minutes from work-related road safety meetings
  • awareness campaign materials
  • driver audits
  • vehicle audits
  • vehicle maintenance records, including employees using their own vehicles
  • related policy documents, e.g. mobile phone use policy
  • insurance records, including employees using their own vehicles


Employers are required to provide driver training and education to ensure that drivers are equipped to manage the situations and circumstances likely to be involved in journeys undertaken on the organisation’s business. Drivers should receive training on their duties under the road traffic legislation and drivers’ hours regulations (where applicable).

This training should also include information regarding:

  • first-aid procedures
  • breakdown procedures
  • emergency procedures (accident, fire, losing load, leakage, etc)
  • loading and unloading equipment and techniques
  • the consequences of alcohol and drug use
  • the effects of speed and traffic levels
  • the effects of stress

Should you have any questions relating to this blog please contact us.



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