4. The 'must haves'
These are aspects that are considered essential to having a robust, effective and efficient driving policy that will keep your employees safe, while saving you and your business a lot of stress and money.
Remember, these are just the recommended requirements to write up in your policy - more information that will beef up your policy follows.
Choose vehicles with high safety ratings
The following features are recommended for new vehicle buyers:
- 'Electronic Stability Control (ESC)': systems that use sensors to detect and prevent a vehicle going out of control
- four-star minimum ANCAP (Australasian New Car Assessment Program) crash rating: safety ratings based on crash test results (see www.rightcar.govt.nz)
- head-protecting side or curtain airbags.
Buying, hiring or equipping company vehicles
When you buy, hire or equip a company vehicle, you should also consider:
- choosing an easily visible colour, such as white or red
- good rearward visibility and/or a rear-view camera
- active safety belt reminders
- active head restraints to reduce whiplash
- a three-point safety belt and head restraint for the centre rear seat
- automatic daytime running lights
- speed warning devices
- type of transmission. If they are doing a lot of travel in a large city, then an automatic transmission may be better
- a cage to protect the driver from any loose loads moving forward in a sudden stop.
Fleet buyers are also advised to consider alcohol interlocks. These prevent a vehicle being started if any alcohol is detected when the driver blows into a breath-testing device.
Maintain your company vehicles properly
Shortcuts in vehicle maintenance can cost lives. Vehicle faults were reported as a contributing factor in around 446 of all crashes during 2008. The most common faults were worn tyres, punctures, faulty brakes and insecure loads.
You could be charged by the police for any part of a vehicle that is below certificate or warrant of fitness (WOF or COF) standard (even if these are current) and fined up to $2000 for operating an unsafe vehicle. Well maintained vehicles also save on fuel.
Your policy for vehicle maintenance should include:
- following the manufacturers' maintenance requirements and schedule: don't forget about scheduling for vehicle downtime and only allow qualified personnel to service the vehicles
- tyre checks: tyres are cited as a factor in more than half of fatal crashes where vehicle defects are a contributing factor, so tyre pressure and tread depth should be checked regularly (specify in your policy whose responsibility this is)
- safety belt checks: look for fading, fraying, cuts and flexibility
- rust checks: if on the main structural parts of any vehicle, rust can be dangerous and should be repaired immediately. Rust removed early also stops spreading and saves money
- exhaust system checks: regular inspections protect occupants from carbon monoxide poisoning
- special equipment: all vehicles should be fitted with a fire extinguisher, a first aid kit, a torch, a reflective vest and an emergency triangle.
Put a system in place for drivers to report vehicle faults, and make sure these are actioned and the drivers told what was done to fix the problems. You should also provide a safe, uncluttered area for vehicle servicing and parking.
Quick tips - vehicle safety
- To find out which are the safest vehicles to buy or hire, see the safety performance of new vehicles from the Australasian New Car Assessment Programme (ANCAP) at www.rightcar.govt.nz - it is strongly recommended you choose at least a four-star vehicle. See also the used-car safety ratings for older vehicles.
- Buy air-conditioned vehicles if your drivers will be travelling in hot and damp weather - air conditioning helps to combat fatigue and demists windows. However, be aware that it's not always the most fuel-efficient way to cool a vehicle.
- Buying vehicles with extra safety features, and maintaining them well, will improve their re-sale value.
- Vehicles that travel long distances need more frequent servicing.
Create safer drivers through training and education
Consider who needs what level of training, such as staff who drive company or pool vehicles, inexperienced drivers, staff recently involved in accidents or offences, and those who drive their own vehicles to work.
Choose the best driving programme for your money. Courses vary from driver seminars to practical advanced driver training courses. Overseas experience suggests that companies should provide regular training sessions because one-off sessions are not enough.
Courses to consider include:
- your own internal courses: regular staff meetings to discuss driving issues can help to develop and maintain a road safety culture
- corporate defensive driving courses: teaching drivers to identify dangerous situations and make adjustments to avoid a crash¹
- individually designed driving courses: delivered by individual providers to suit specific staff needs²
- courses for special vehicles: such as forklifts2 and four-wheel drive vehicles²
- first aid courses: these could help employees to cope if they are involved in a crash or come across one
- transporting dangerous goods courses³
- driver assessment: these are 40-minute driving sessions carried out by a NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) approved driving instructor, which assess a driver's hazard identification as well as search, control and traffic-observing skills. Training requirements and programmes can then be recommended.²
For more information about accredited training courses and programmes, visit www.tranzqual.org.nz - the website for Tranzqual, the industry training organisation for transport and logistics.
¹For details on defensive driving courses visit the AA website at www.aa.co.nz.
²For a list of local driving instructors, refer to your Yellow Pages or visit the Institute of Driving Educators website at www.drivinginstructor.co.nz.
It is your responsibility as an employer to ensure that any employee who drives any kind of vehicle is legally able to do so. That means they must have the right category of licence and it must be valid. i.e. it must not be suspended, expired or revoked.
There are ways you can check that your employees' licences are up to date and valid.
Contact the NZTA to subscribe to Driver Check so you can be notified if new and existing staff are licensed drivers. Remember that vehicles driven by unlicensed drivers can be impounded by the police, so companies need to check the validity of their employees' driver licences before allowing them to drive company vehicles. Rental companies are responsible for ensuring they only rent vehicles to licensed drivers.
TORO (Transport Organisation Register Online)
This is the NZTA service that enables transport operators (TSL or PSL holders) to maintain a register of drivers in their employment. Certain transport organisations are required by law to maintain such a register, including details about their drivers' licences, which must be available for inspection by NZTA and the New Zealand Police. TORO is an online registry system that allows transport organisations to meet their legal commitments.
Operator Rating System (ORS)
The Operator Rating System (ORS) is a new system. It aims to provide a fair and accurate indication of both the safety of an operator's fleet and the operator's compliance with land transport safety legislation.
ORS will let operators know how well they're complying with legislation, help customers find and support operators that have good safety records and allow the NZTA to target regulatory activities where they are most needed.
For more information visit www.nzta.govt.nz/commercial/assistance/ors.
Address driver behaviour
As a major cause of crashes, speeding must be prohibited. Not only can you save lives and serious injuries, you save on fuel consumption and cost. When a crash happens, the seriousness of any injuries is directly related to the speed the vehicles were going.
Speeding is not just about exceeding the speed limit. It can also be about driving too fast for the conditions, such as on wet or icy roads, in heavy traffic, or while cornering.
Your safe driving policy should help to lower speed by:
- making sure staff have enough time to travel between destinations
- making staff responsible for paying their own speeding tickets
- making speeding a disciplinary issue
- providing regular educational sessions on driver responsibility
- ensuring managers communicate that meeting deadlines is not an excuse for speeding.
Prohibit drink-driving and other drugs
Driving under the influence of drink, drugs or medication that affects driving ability must be prohibited. To help cut such driving:
- be a responsible host and provide food and non-alcoholic drinks at functions
- provide courtesy vans from work functions
- encourage the use of taxis and designated drivers
- provide regular educational sessions on driver responsibility
- inform staff that they must notify you if they are taking any medication that could cause drowsiness or impair their driving in anyway
- consider implementing an alcohol and/or other drug testing policy.
Address driver distraction
Driving is a complicated task requiring continuous concentration. Overseas studies have shown that anything that diverts a driver's attention for more than a second can significantly increase the likelihood of a crash, near-crash or incident.
In 2009 it became illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone when driving. Using a mobile phone to make, receive or end a call when driving is now only legal if:
- the driver does not have to hold or manipulate the phone to do so (i.e. the phone is completely voice activated); or
- the mobile phone is securely mounted to the vehicle and the driver manipulates the phone infrequently and briefly.
Drivers are not allowed to create, send or read text messages under any circumstances.
It's recommended that drivers minimise the potential for distraction by switching phones off while driving. Where staff need to stay in contact on the road, they should pull over in a safe and legal place before returning a call.
To minimise distraction while driving, your policy should encourage staff to:
- switch off mobile phones when driving (research shows that talking on even a hands-free phone significantly decreases a driver's performance)
- ask passengers to be quiet if the driver is having difficulty concentrating
- ensure windscreens and mirrors are clean, and adjust in-vehicle controls (including the radio/stereo) before setting off
- if unfamiliar with the route, check on a map before commencing a journey (or pull over when checking routes)
- ensure that goods carried are properly secured (see the NZTA's Guide to Safe Loading and Towing for Light Vehicles For heavy vehicles refer to the Official road code for heavy vehicles
- take regular breaks rather than eating, drinking or smoking while driving.
A note about smoking: While the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 allows smoking in a work vehicle if everyone using that vehicle gives written consent, to protect the health and safety of your staff it is recommended that all work vehicles be smoke-free and that smoking while driving be prohibited.
Address driver fatigue
Fatigue is more than tiredness - it is weariness or exhaustion. Unfortunately, fatigue can impair driving long before you 'nod off' at the wheel. People who drive for work travel about three times the distance of the average private motorist and often work long hours, so they have a higher risk of becoming fatigued.
However fatigue also has the potential to affect all staff, whether they drive as part of their jobs or simply drive to and from work.
The most common effects of fatigue on driving are:
- difficulty keeping your vehicle within the correct lane
- heavy or sore eyes and frequent or slow blinking
- frequent yawning
- having to take sudden corrective actions because of a lack of concentration
- unintentionally speeding up or slowing down, so you find yourself making unnecessary changes in speed
- daydreaming and/or realising you don't remember the last stretch of road you drove over
- not reacting in time or appropriately to avoid a dangerous situation.
Fatigue can affect your performance at any time - when you are fatigued:
- it takes longer to understand what is happening around you, at work or on the road
- your reactions are slower and your ability to concentrate is reduced
- your judgement of risk is reduced
- you are more likely to succumb to discomfort, pain and injury conditions, such as strains and other aches and pains, and are more likely to have a slip, trip or fall.
Under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, employers are responsible for ensuring the workplace is safe. This includes having systems to assess and control the contributors to fatigue, particularly when employees use machines or vehicles at work.
Transport service drivers
A transport service driver is anyone who drives a vehicle in a licensed transport service, or drives a vehicle for hire or reward. Examples are courier drivers, taxi drivers, bus drivers and truck drivers.
For these drivers, all the hours spent working - which might or might not include driving - are counted as work time.
If you employ these drivers, you have a legal responsibility to ensure they comply with the requirements, including making a record of work and rest time in their logbooks if they are required to maintain one.
Work time limits for transport service drivers
- In general, drivers must take a break of at least 30 minutes after 5.5 hours of work time, no matter what type of work takes place during that period (so even if they're not driving).
- Drivers can work a maximum of 13 hours in any 24-hour period. They must then take a break of at least 10 hours, as well as the standard half-hour breaks required every 5.5 hours.
- Drivers can accumulate work time of up to 70 hours before they must take a break of at least 24 hours.
- While not a legal requirement, it is recommended that driving between midnight and 6am be kept to a minimum because this is the body's natural time for sleep. Many people also experience low energy late in the afternoon.
See the NZTA's website for information on work time and log book requirements.
Remember, even if a driver is within the maximum work time hours, they can still be fatigued. Compliance with the work time rules might not be a defence. It's your responsibility to schedule their work so they have time for rest breaks and recovery. The HSE Act also sets out similar responsibilities for employers.
To manage fatigue, you need to consider what's happening for your employees both at work and at home. Use strategies (such as work and time management along with encouraging healthy living and eating) in combination, and customise them to suit individuals and situations. Fatigue can only be managed effectively if you and your staff work together.
Even if your staff are not constantly driving, their risk of driver fatigue could be high if:
- they are not getting adequate good-quality sleep
- they work shifts or extended hours
- their work is monotonous
- family or personal circumstances are creating stress
- commuting - especially for longer distances or at high risk fatigue times.
Raising awareness of these risk factors and how to reduce them will have benefits for you and your staff. If employees have to make long-distance trips, do not expect them to drive to the limits set for commercial drivers. Ten-minute breaks every two hours are advised, as well as a good sleep the night before a long trip. Again, driving between midnight and 6am is not recommended.
Drivers should know:
- about time management: how to plan their trip and allow plenty of time
- about getting plenty of sleep before a long journey
- that caffeine, loud music and opening the windows are not solutions to feeling weary
- the benefits of taking a short nap of around 20 minutes
- about stopping driving immediately if they're sleepy
- about eating sensibly during a long journey, which means staying away from high-fat, high-sugar foods (refer to the 'commercial drivers' section at www.shiftwork.co.nz)
- about, if possible, sharing the driving.
- plan meetings or events to start later and end earlier to accommodate staff travelling long distances to attend
- consider offering an overnight stay if meeting times can't be adjusted for safety
- reorganise work that's done during the low-energy times of the day
- encourage the use of taxis or arrange transport if fatigue has been identified as a risk.
Quick tips - fatigue
- The only cure for fatigue is quality sleep; not caffeine, winding the window down or turning up the music. Considering both the home and work environments is important because there might be out of-work factors making your staff fatigued.
- When recording incident, crash and near-miss data, also record the time of day to see if it could be linked to fatigue.
- Find ways to rotate work and vary tasks to minimise fatigue - make sure staff don't do too much overtime.
- Consider the provision of rest facilities, nutritious food and access to drinking water.
Promote the use of safety belts and other safety features
Wearing a safety belt increases the chances of surviving a crash by 40%. Front and rear safety belts must be used at all times - it's the law. The fine for not wearing a safety belt is $150.
To ensure safety belt wearing:
- do not pay fines on behalf of staff
- offer incentives to increase safety belt wearing
- hold educational sessions on driver responsibility and risk.
Safety belts are part of Warrant of Fitness (WOF) and certificate of fitness (COF) checks. A damaged or worn safety belt can break or stretch in a crash or even in sudden stops. Safety belts can be affected by:
- deterioration from ultraviolet light (sunlight)
- fraying from rubbing on fittings
- cuts or holes in the fabric
- changes in flexibility or suppleness.
In 2009, 73 people who were not wearing safety belts were killed in crashes. At least 26 of those lives would have been saved if they had worn the belts available.
Hiring and disciplinary procedures
These can be linked to your safe driving policy. For example:
- seek permission from potential employees to check their licence status through Driver Check or Transport Organisation Register Online (TORO)
- undertake disciplinary action (including potential dismissal) when procedures aren't followed
- include driving behaviour requirements in the company's code of conduct
- make sure employees have the correct licence class/endorsement for the type of vehicle they'll be driving
- consider a small test for employees to ensure they can perform basic manoeuvres, for example parallel parking and reversing.
- drivers being affected by alcohol or drugs was a contributing factor in 103 fatal traffic crashes, 441 serious injury crashes and 1156 minor injury crashes, which equates to 31% of fatal crashes and 14% of injury crashes. These crashes resulted in 119 deaths, 582 serious injuries and 1726 minor injuries. The total social cost of crashes involving alcohol or drugs was about $841 million
- speeding was a contributing factor in 111 fatal crashes, 415 serious injury crashes and 1311 minor injury crashes, which equates to 34% of all fatal crashes and 15% of all injury crashes. These crashes resulted in 127 deaths, 569 serious injuries and 2060 minor injuries. The total social cost of crashes involving drivers speeding was about $875 million
- diverted attention was identified as a contributing factor in a total of 1438 crashes (12% of all crashes), of which 41 were fatal crashes, 207 were serious injury crashes and 1190 were minor injury crashes. These crashes resulted in 42 deaths, 245 serious injuries and 1636 minor injuries. The total social cost of crashes involving diverted attention was about $413 million.
What to do if employees use their own vehicles for driving for work
(The content for this section has been drawn from The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.)
Employers owe the same duty of care under health and safety law to staff who drive their own vehicles for work as they do to employees who drive company-owned, leased or hired vehicles.
Here are some practical things you can do to manage this properly:
- consult staff: make sure they are fully aware of the company's safe driving policy and that this also applies to them when they use their own vehicles
- set specific boundaries around own-vehicle use: consider specifying a maximum distance for which an employee can use their own vehicle, after which a company-owned or hire vehicle should be used. This also makes financial sense if staff are reimbursed for the distance travelled - usually a company-owned or hire vehicle is cheaper.
To ensure minimum vehicle standards are met in employees' own vehicles, consider:
- crashworthiness and minimum safety features: you might agree that things such as restraints, airbags, ABS and ESC are minimum safety features an employee needs in their vehicle before it can be used for work. Vehicle crashworthiness information can be found at www.rightcar.govt.nz.
- agree minimum conditions of use.
'Minimum conditions of use' might mean that an employee using their own vehicle for work must:
- ensure the vehicle is properly registered, has a valid WOF and valid insurance for business use (and is only used in accordance with that cover) and is properly serviced according to the manufacturer's recommendations
- show, on request (and at specified intervals) documentary proof of the above
- agree to conduct regular vehicle safety checks (see below)
- not carry loads for which the vehicle is unsuited (such as treat their car like a van)
- not carry hazardous materials
- only carry the number of passengers for whom there are safety belts
- not use the vehicle in conditions for which it was not designed (e.g. off-road).
Ensure your employee - and their manager - clearly understand they are responsible for checking these details and carrying them out. If the vehicle is found to be unsafe, stipulate it can't be used for work until it's fixed.
Also, make sure the employee knows that even though they are driving their own vehicle, they are on company business and must comply with your company's rules and procedures.