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Employers’ responsibilities regarding vehicles

1st October, 2012

If an employer provides an employee with a vehicle to use then that employer has a responsibility to ensure that the person or persons who are going to be allowed to drive this vehicle hold an appropriate driving licence. This can include wives and children of employees who may be allowed to use the vehicle.

If an employee is not the holder of an appropriate category of licence for the type/size of vehicle he or she is driving or if that employee is disqualified from driving, then they will not be covered under the terms of any insurance policy. Should there be an accident in these circumstances then it will be the employer who is liable for any claims resulting from the accident and not the insurer. Liability in these cases can run to many thousands of pounds.

This responsibility even extends to employees driving their own private vehicles on work-related journeys. In these circumstances if they are in fact not insured for want of a proper licence then the employer could well find themselves being pursued on the basis of being better able to meet such claims.

There is also the risk of criminal liability as it is an offence to cause or permit the use of a motor vehicle when there is not in force a policy of insurance. This offence carries a maximum fine of £5,000 with the endorsement of six to eight points on the Defendant’s licence. Obviously, if the employer is a company the endorsement provisions will not apply, but a sole trader or in fact all the partners in a partnership could be liable to the endorsement of their licences where the offence of causing or permitting the use of a vehicle without insurance is made out.

Causing is straight forward and would require an express or positive mandate by the employer, but permitting is a somewhat vaguer term. It would however cover the situation where there have been insufficient steps taken to ensure that a person is properly licensed and thus properly insured.

If the employer is the holder of a goods or passenger vehicle operator’s licence then a conviction for the offence of permitting the use of a vehicle without insurance would have to be reported to the Traffic Commissioner and goes to repute which can threaten the ability to continue holding that operator’s licence.

Properly checking employees’ licences also provides a valuable management tool in risk assessments around an employees offending history. This will assist in the implementation of appropriate management steps with respect to the employer’s workforce.

If licences are to be checked manually, given the speed with which points can be accumulated, this should be done at least every six months, more frequently if the employee already has six or more points and linked to an obligations on employees to notify their employers when new points are added. A copy should be taken and retained on the employee’s personnel file. This can be administratively burdensome particularly if employees are out driving for much of their working time.

This increase in the frequency at which points can now be acquired has led to a growing temptation for people to seek to hide from their employers the fact that they have a poor driving record. Commonly a person so minded will claim to have lost a driving licence and obtain a duplicate from the DVLA.

One licence that is kept clear of points can be produced to employers while the other is presented for endorsement. A manual inspection of what will be a genuine licence will not in these circumstances reveal the fact that the employee could have twelve or more points.

Forged licences are not particularly uncommon or the production of a relative’s paper counterpart where the names are very similar may go undetected unless there is rigorous scrutiny.

In these circumstances an online checking facility is by far the most effective means of properly monitoring the state of an employee’s licence. This is particularly relevant at the time of engagement as if the employee declines to sign the requisite mandate he or she may have something to hide and this would provide reasonable grounds for not employing that particular candidate.

For further information please contact Tim Culpin at [email protected] or on 01244 405533.

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