Showing up to your driving job today may involve exposing yourself to a level of risk. Risk, no matter how big or small, is a part of our everyday lives and we choose whether or not to accept it every day.
Choosing to take on that risk, means we understand the possible outcomes, be they good or bad. Now put yourself in a situation where the risks may not be clear, but the possible penalties and dangers are high.
Keep reading to get an understanding of the risks that make this so much more than just a job...
Drivers share the responsibility for the vehicle’s roadworthiness with the operator. Drivers may be fined or prosecuted for the existence of defects found on the vehicles they drive if they are considered partly or wholly responsible for the existence of them. You can be held responsible if the defect would have been apparent at the time of a walk around check.
A responsible person must undertake a daily walk around check. As a driver, the Driver and Vehicle Safety Authority (DVSA) recommend this check is carried out before you first drive the vehicle on the road each day. Where more than one driver will use the vehicle during the day, the driver taking charge of a vehicle should make sure it is roadworthy and safe to drive by carrying out their own walk around check (Vehicle In-Service Check).
When conducting this check, ask yourself 'could this defect present a safety risk to myself or others', your answer determines if you should take the vehicle on the road and in all circumstances, if the conclusion you come to is “No”, you must resist any pressure from the vehicle operator to “take it out for just this run and we’ll get it fixed when you get back”.
An insecure step, bumper or seat are most certainly a safety risk. Imagine the step or bumper coming off in the path of another vehicle (especially the 2 wheeled variety), how would a loose seat effect the drivers control of the vehicle, particularly in an emergency situation?
If you take a vehicle out on the road with a defect like a brake pad warning light on, the date and time the defect first occurred will be recorded in the on-board computer. If you have an accident that can be attributed to such a defect it is your licence you could lose, if it’s a fatal accident you could even be going to prison for a while.
Don’t Ruin Your Christmas:
We have heard from drivers reporting pressure building from vehicle operators to get deliveries done despite issues with vehicles being reported with promises of “we’ll fix it as soon as you get back”. Likewise, as the driver shortage due to the onset of winter flu season and increase in Covid infections worsens, additional deliveries are being added to existing runs to compensate for fewer available drivers. This can even be in circumstances where it is not possible to complete them within the allocated time, or before the end of a driver’s shift. Drivers are regularly working longer hours to try and complete the extra drops or rushing to get them done prior to the end of their shift. This can lead to mistakes and driving less safely than you normally would.
There are a couple of considerations here:
1: Don’t rush! Whilst your hurry may be well intentioned, you may not be as focussed on your driving as you normally are, or indeed should be. If you make an error and have an accident due to a momentary lapse of concentration because you feel under stress to complete the additional deliveries, it is your licence you are risking and you will likely also be subject to a disciplinary process by your employer that could ultimately lose you your job.
2: Be very aware of your legal driving hours. If you go beyond the end of your shift, you need to be sure that you are leaving sufficient gap between the end of your shift and the start of your next one.
3. Check the total weight of the load. It may well be the case that you have been allocated additional deliveries because the addresses will have been assessed to be close to your route. You may however be close to the loading limit of your vehicle with your original run, so double check the weight of the additional deliveries and make absolutely sure they do not put you over the maximum permitted loading weight.
According to the DVSA, eight in 10 vehicles are stopped because they are overloaded and 54% of vans are found with serious mechanical defects. Did you know that you can be fined up to £2,500 and get 3 penalty points for using a van in a dangerous condition?
If a van is stopped for overloading and is also found to have these issues, it could result in a court appearance or an even larger fine.
In a recent initiative by West Midlands Police, 21 drivers received fines for offences including using a vehicle with defects around lighting and tyres, or being in an overall dangerous condition.
Remember, if your employer is providing the vehicle you drive, as soon as you leave the yard and enter the public road network, the condition of the vehicle and its load is entirely your responsibility. Don’t be tempted to rush the walk around check and if there is anything that you believe is unsafe or that is likely to be an offence under the Road Traffic Act, do not take the vehicle out, irrespective of the pressures you might be put under by your employer to do so.
Stay safe out there,
CEO at DALUS Technologies Ltd