The physical document gave organisations an instant snapshot of a driver’s entitlement to drive, including class of vehicle and any health issues that might prevent them getting behind the wheel.
The recent coroner’s inquest into deaths caused by a runaway refuse lorry in Glasgow offered another reminder that ensuring work drivers’ fitness is crucial. This includes verifying that their eyesight is not impaired, but a recent survey suggests that over half of employers did not offer any eye-care to their workers as part of their risk prevention strategies.
The onus isn’t just on the employer to check whether drivers can see a number plate from a legally required 20 metres, licence holders have a legal obligation to notify their employer and the DVLA of any impediment to their health that would prevent them driving or carrying out their job to the required standard. But it is common for people, particularly those over 40, not to notice that their eyesight is gradually deteriorating, and work drivers, especially those who routinely drive in challenging conditions such as low sun or at night, may find their eyesight worsens at a faster rate than less frequent road users.
The recommended frequency for eye tests is every 2 years. A survey last year by Brake (a road safety charity campaigning for compulsory eye testing for drivers) found 12% of regular vehicle users had not had their sight tested for more than 5 years. An eye examination will not only test distance vision, but also peripheral vision and the ability to refocus between near and far objects.
‘Cassie’s Law’ was introduced in 2013, named after Cassie Mc Cord who lost her life after being hit by a driver who had failed an eye test 3 days earlier yet was able to continue driving under a legal loophole. The regulatory change gave the police powers to revoke licences after roadside examinations and more than 690 people have had their licences suspended since the law was changed.
Whether through the DVLA service or through a third party provider, safety managers need to ensure that an employee’s entitlement to drive covers more than just the vehicle types they can operate. This is increasingly crucial for drivers operating vehicles with specialist equipment.