We are all familiar with the risks to us personally should we be caught over the legal drink-drive limit – hefty fines, points to our licence, possible driving ban and even a potential prison sentence. However, as owners and managers of a fleet of vehicles, do you know what the consequences would be to you as an employer and to your business should one of your drivers be involved in a drink-drive incident whilst on duty?
Figures from the Department for Transport show that 9,040 people were killed or injured on Britain’s roads in 2016 where a driver was over the legal limit for alcohol. With alcohol consumption increasing by 40% in the month of December, fleets are at more risk than normal of their drivers being involved in a drink-drive related incident.
Businesses are under no legal obligation to adopt testing policies in their workplace. However, as part of their duty of care responsibilities they do have an obligation to maintain a safe working environment under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
Should there ever be an unfortunate event where one of your drivers is caught over the legal limit or involved in a drink-drive related accident, here are the consequences that you may need to be prepared for:
You instantly thought of the horrific drink-drive crash that occurred on the M1 near Newport Pagnell in August 2017, which resulted in the fatalities of 8 minibus passengers?
Anyone would have been hard pressed to have missed the media coverage of this fatal crash which resulted in Ryszard Masierak, a driver for A.I.M Logistics, being sentenced to 14 years in prison for causing death by dangerous driving. Masierak was found to have been twice the drink-drive limit.
Due to the size of commercial vehicles, the impact and harm they cause when involved in an accident can unfortunately be far greater than a crash between just passenger cars. The adverse media coverage of these large commercial vehicle crashes can cause irreparable damage to a business’ reputation. Customers can lose confidence in the company, resulting in cancelled contracts and loss of work. Often, small haulage companies can find it hard to come back from this, with those unfortunate few filing for administration.
Increased insurance premiums
For many transport companies, insurance is a considerable cost within their business. Therefore, avoiding hefty insurance claims that will affect your premiums for years to come is often a core reason for a business investing in fleet safety solutions. One claim caused by an employee under the influence of alcohol can cause insurance premiums to more than double for a fleet of commercial vehicles – sometimes increasing by 4x the original price.
With the shocking statistic that one in ten people who drive for work in the UK regularly get behind the wheel while under the influence, with 3% of those admitting to driving under the influence every day 3, implementing some kind of preventative solution , such as an on-board ignition interlock device, could be a way to negotiate lower premiums.
Corporate liability is a term that defines a situation or instance where a company is responsible for actions, or actions undertaken by its employees, that could be deemed unlawful.
With health and safety law applying to all aspects of a business, commercial transport operators are also therefore liable to ensure any on-the-road activities and the associated risks are also managed within their health and safety system.
In the event of an incident involving an employee who had been found to be over the legal drink-drive limit, the employer could potentially be found to be liable if the correct health and safety procedures were not in place.
Do you undertake full licence and criminal record checks before you employ a new driver? Is there a workplace drink and drugs policy in place? Do you provide regular reviews and assessments with your drivers to ensure they are fit for work?
These are all simple procedures that, if put in place, could save lives, fines and keep you and your employees out of jail.
Mitigate your risks with a preventative strategy
In the past, companies have had to experience a serious drink driving incident, with heavy media coverage and severe penalties before implementing a detailed and robust strategy for preventing and combating drink driving. Can you afford to do the same? There are multiple ways that you can effectively minimise the risks of drink driving in your fleet. By installing breathalyser interlock devices, training your staff, and implementing a zero tolerance policy you prevent impaired drivers from operating one of your vehicles.
A comprehensive alcohol policy stating your company’s stance on alcohol use, not only gives your employees clarity on what can/cannot be tolerated, but also outlines the company’s expectations from your employees and the implications of non-adherence to the policy. It can also explain your company’s alcohol screenings or breathalyser procedure, if used. If you’d like some guidance on implementing a drink and drugs policy within your fleet operations, ROPSA have comprehensive document on ‘Drinking and Driving’ here.
Breathalyser interlocks require the driver to take a breath test before starting the vehicle, if the driver fails the test, the device locks the ignition until a breath test is passed. Breathalyser interlocks are viewed as an effective tool for reducing drink-driving, with proposals to make them mandatory in commercial vehicles internationally. If you are interested in learning more about breathalyser interlocking technology please click here to find out more. Or click below to book a demo.
- ETSC (2008). Drink-driving fact sheet, ETSC, Brussels