Fit to drive or something to hide?

There have been a number of issues raised recently by the national press with regards to the DVLA self-declaration and discovery of relevant health issues process as this has raised a number of questions for all professional HGV drivers; their employers and driver agencies to ensure they remain legal and compliant as well as improving the safety for all roads users.

For HGV drivers, the obvious question they should ask themselves is: “Am I fit to drive for a living?” This may seem a simple question to answer but it is clear from recent news that drivers may hide important health information to stay on the road.

Andrew Drewary, Consultant Accident Analyst for 3Sixty Fleet (www.3-sixtysolutions.co.uk) says: “The vast majority of HGV drivers are fit and healthy and have nothing to hide. Unfortunately, a small minority of drivers are not medically fit enough to carry out their duties. They are not prepared to admit this to themselves or their employer. This could be viewed as being selfish. This is not a new area of concern and the consequences of such actions have been made very clear for all to see in numerous incidents over the years.  Therefore, if drivers are not prepared to own up then their employers need to change their processes to help identify unfit drivers to protect everyone’s interests.”

HGV drivers are subject to a medical renewal every 5 years and this is the perfect time for all medical conditions to be made known to the medical examiner. Unfortunately, disclosure of such conditions is a voluntary process and unless the driver advises the medical examiner of any issues, they will not be identified. This process is compounded further by the fact that the driver’s full medical records are not available for inspection at this time.

Therefore, the process should be more restrictive to ensure drivers with medical conditions are identified.  The driver’s employer should take the lead. They should make their process stringent and part of their KPI’s to manage work related road risk.

Drewary says: “The whole process of driver medicals needs to be a lot more robust and employers should take the lead in ensuring this is the case. Employers should take control of this situation to ensure that they find out all the necessary facts. They could use a specialist medical agency to arrange all driver medicals for their drivers with an independent medical examiner. These could even be conducted at their own business premises. They could also insist that the driver’s full medical records are made available direct to the medical examiner ensuring confidentiality of the information. This may be an initial additional cost to the employer but they could reclaim these costs from the driver over the year.”

It is clear that the initial cost of the above suggestion may be prohibitive for employers but the cost could be reclaimed. Without drivers who are medically fit to do their job then employers leave themselves open to massive risk as well as endangering other road users.

Drewary continues: “Some employers may believe the cost is not worth the investment. However, the catastrophic consequences are clear for all to see. Unfortunately, once things have reached that stage it is too late for all the victims.”

The DVLA are satisfied that their process is robust enough and are reluctant to change. Surely then, the sensible thing would be for the independent medical examiner to report all relevant medical issues to the DVLA as soon as they are known. It would remove the onus from the driver, who ultimately stays in control of this process which can be very tempting to manipulate.
As employers now carry out driving licence checks on a regular basis, is it time for employers to take greater control of this situation and carry out driver medicals through an independent medical agency on a more frequent basis. A more stringent process and cost should not be a barrier to protecting   business reputation.

Mike Bristow, Brake Spokesperson: “Underlying health issues can greatly increase the risk of a collision which could result in a serious injury or fatality, which is why it is crucial that drivers take their health and general fitness to drive seriously. Equally, employers have a responsibility to ensure that drivers operate in an environment where they feel they can discuss any issues around health they might have, and actively encourage their drivers to do so. Clear policies, advice and guidance to drivers will help to create a safer and more open environment for drivers to volunteer crucial information on their health.”
There is a great video that has been produced by the CILT entitled: ‘Our Vehicles, Our Safety, Our Responsibility’. The title says it all and is well worth a watch. A copy is embedded at the bottom of this post.

3Sixty Fleet provides independent fleet risk management solutions which have been specifically designed to assist the industry to change the way in which it deals with fleet risk management and manage its worked related road risk. If you want to know about what they can do for you then contact us on 0845 388 3883 or Andrew Drewary on 07817 043821 or andy@3-sixtysolutions.co.uk