I heard a joke the other day about a van full of penguins and it got me thinking about whether it was legal to transport wildlife in the back of a van, and then I was sucked into the internet looking at the perils of driving at work.
As a trades man or construction worker, you’ll be on the road every day, rain or shine. So how do you manage your journey? Are you fiddling with the sat nav, retuning the radio, chatting on the phone (on hands-free, of course!) or dreaming about your next holiday? Do you leave it a bit late every day and take any opportunity to push the speed limit boundaries?
You’re likely to have your own van, or be provided with one by your employer. Let’s explore the consequences of things that can (and do) go wrong for regular drivers.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimates that a third of all traffic accidents in the UK involve someone who was working while driving. It is believed that working drivers may also account for as many as 20 fatalities and 250 serious injuries every week.
If you’re rushing to get to your destination and push the speed limits, you could be up for a minimum penalty of £100 fine and three penalty points added to your licence. You could lose your licence if you build up 12 or more penalty points within a period of three years – and that’s the end of your job. And you still have to go to court if you plead not guilty. Then if the court decides that you are guilty of speeding, you can be fined more and get higher penalty points.
The amount you’re fined depends on what the speed limit was and how much over it you were driving. It’s usually a percentage of your weekly income, up to a maximum of £1,000 (£2,500 if you were driving on a motorway).
Did you know it’s illegal to hold a phone or sat nav while you’re driving or riding a motorbike? You need to have hands-free access.
If you’re not in full control of your vehicle, the police can stop you. Then if they think you’re not in control because you’re distracted, you can be prosecuted. This still applies if you’re stopped at traffic lights or queuing in traffic, and you’ll get six penalty points and a £200 fine if you use a hand-held phone when driving. You also get three penalty points if you don’t have a full view of the road and traffic ahead or proper control of the vehicle because your sat nav’s in the wrong place.
It’s tough if you are working on your own and having to balance getting work and delivering a service. There are often calls to be made to arrange the next job or chase money. And while driving might seem like dead time, it’s not the time to be making these calls. Just do them between jobs, or when you get home.
Your bosses can also be prosecuted if they cause or permit you to drive while using a phone or not to have proper control of a vehicle. They’re not allowed to require you to make or receive calls while driving, and if you drive dangerously because you’re using a phone installed by them, they’ll end up in court too.
Are you aware of the weight of all the stuff in your van?
Vans, and lorries can be stopped and checked by the Police and the Vehicle Operator Services Agency (VOSA). If the model’s Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) is above the maximum permitted, you’ll be fined, and could be stopped from driving any further. The amount of the fine will depend on how much the vehicle has gone over the legal limit. And if your van is overloaded to a point where it’s a real hazard to other road users, you can be charged with dangerous driving and may go to jail.
According to the DVSA, eight in 10 vehicles are stopped because they are overloaded and 54% of vans are found with serious mechanical defects.
Keep a check on your tyre treads as you must have a minimum 1.6mm of tread left over the central three quarters of your tyres. Below this the rubber is deemed illegal and you risk a fine of up to £2,500 and three points on your licence for each bald one.
Do you know what’s in the rubbish you’ve just loaded up after a job?
The Carriage of Waste Regulations say that anyone transporting waste as part of their normal business (whether it’s their waste or someone else’s) has to register for a Waste Carriers Licence. This includes contractors like carpet fitters carrying old carpet, plumbers carrying old sinks, landscape gardeners carrying shrubs or trees, and builders carrying rubble and plaster. Without a licence you could be fined up to £5,000. Take special care of transporting waste that may contain harmful substances such as asbestos or other dusts that could have a serious effect on your health.
How is your driving affected by the weather?
It’s that time of year when you may face ice or snow on the roads and its best to be prepared for it. Carrying salt, a spade and an old mat in your van, may make the difference between getting to your job or not. Check your breakdown arrangements and keep warm clothing in your car as it can take a long time for the services to arrive in very bad weather.
Slow down and keep your distance. Stopping in snow or on wet roads can require a lot more space.
Can you see where you’re going? Or are you too tired to drive?
You should have regular eye tests to make sure your vision is good enough to drive on the roads. If you’re taking any form of medication, make sure that it will not impair your driving or cause drowsiness. And finally, if you’re feeling tired, pull over and have a nap or do some exercise. Better to arrive late than not at all!
Do you employ others to drive for their work?
If you’re the boss, everything above applies to you. But it’s also essential that your company’s health and safety policy should include guidance for your employees on how to stay safe and minimise the risks they may face. You may even give training or specific guidance for regular drivers.
You should make sure that you:
- Have done a risk assessment for driving on company business
- Your company vehicles are properly maintained and inspected with records kept
- Your staff are given realistic schedules of journey times to ensure they are not stressed when driving
- Consult with employees about health and safety.
Stay safe on the roads this winter.
Health and Safety Director, THSP Risk Management