Not so long ago, the transport and logistics industry faced a standout challenge. Specifically, that of HGV driver shortages. The situation was brought about by a range of factors: an ageing workforce, a lack of younger workers entering the sector, and stricter regulations for entry into the profession. Evidently, this caused businesses which used fleets to feel rather desperate where getting new employees on board was concerned. Perhaps, even causing employers to feel like they needed to somewhat rush the process of hiring new drivers in order to address the issue quickly.
While the circumstance of driver shortages continues to gradually improve, as partly aided by a governmental response, it’s clear that it hasn’t been entirely stabilised. Understandably, an attitude of haste still remains among employers, but it is vital that each and every driver within a fleet is suitably qualified for the role.
The way in which this is determined is by carrying out pre-employment screening checks. So that you can get to grips with all the requirements involved, we’ve put together this piece which goes over the checks you should conduct before hiring new drivers.
Why are driver pre-employment checks important?
Driver checks are important because they ensure that a potential new hire meets a certain eligibility standard for fleet work. It may appear as if driver checks are just a case of ticking boxes, but they are in fact an essential part of vetting a new employee. As such, these checks should be carried out rigorously and as part of your normal hiring procedure.
For fleet managers in particular, driver checks benefit everyone associated with a given fleet. Namely, they are in the best interests of a business from a legal standpoint, of the general public, and of the driver’s personal welfare while they are out on a job. After all, there is only so much that immediate in-cab feedback can accomplish. Indeed, driver checks are, foremostly, a matter of driver safety. Without conducting driver checks, there is a marked increase in the risk of incidents occurring. In turn, equating to reputational damage and high insurance costs.
One of your first ports of call should be to check the validity of a prospective fleet driver’s driving licence. All organisations which employ drivers have a duty of care that implies the need to make sure that their employees are licensed to fulfil their role. DVLA checks are an electronic service, and so you can check your workers’ driving licence details online. Said details comprise:
- The expiration date of the licence
- The vehicles the driver is licenced to operate
- Any previous driving-related offences
- Any points deducted as a result of a previous penalty
- Whether the applicant is disqualified from driving
In essence, DVLA checks offer fleet managers a basic way of verifying their drivers’ suitability for employment.
Employers are entitled to make offers of employment with conditions attached. One condition might be that they must provide a reference from a previous employer of theirs. The utility of a reference from a previous employer is straightforward, they represent evidence of a candidate's ability to meet the specified requirements of a new job role. Common information requested, and thereafter contained in a reference, consists of:
- Their previous employment role(s)
- The employee’s dates of employment
- Their sickness record
- Their disciplinary record
- Their previous salary
When requesting a reference, it’s recommended to follow the EHRC code of practice. Meaning, that the referee should receive a copy of the employment offer and that the requested information regards the job specifically, in order for the reference to be firmly relevant to the role and not introduce the possibility of discrimination. Moreover, if the employee does not satisfy the condition of a reference, and it is to be therefore rescinded, then the employer is obliged to give contractual notice or a payment in lieu of notice to the employee in question. Of course, references are also of importance in that they give fleet managers an idea of a driver before they begin to undertake jobs, i.e., whether they may need support in any area.
Right to work checks
As per the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, UK employers are obligated to carry out right to work checks before an individual commences employment in their organisation. These checks will validate if an employee has definitive permission to work in the UK. Likewise, it’s advised that a reflective record of such details is kept for every worker under employment by an organisation.
This is a salient point because it is a civil offence to hire someone who doesn’t possess a right to work in the UK out of negligence towards the necessary checks. Followingly, doing so can lead to a penalty of up to £20,000 for each illegal employee. This is pertinent, taking into account the lengths fleet managers go to to reduce fleet costs.
Although, employers can be excused from paying this penalty if they can show that they complied with imposed standardised practice before their worker was officially employed. Additionally, it’s integral that this is a part of the recruitment process for all applicants, rather than questioning someone’s right to work based on their race, colour, or nationality, given that this totals as racial discrimination.
Drugs and alcohol tests
In a lot of industries, employers will make it mandatory for applicants to take a drug and/or alcohol test before they can enter under their employment. In the context of transport, it’s easy to see why this is fundamental, especially if a driver will be operating a HGV as part of a fleet.
A core duty of fleet managers is guaranteeing that their drivers pose no risk to either themselves or the public while they are on the road, and so such tests are quite justifiable in the industry. These tests can be perceived as intrusive, meaning a subsequent impact assessment should be well documented and kept safely.
In a similar vein to the last point, health and safety is at the forefront of fleet managers’ minds, to the degree that driver training is a staple of good fleet management. On the back of this, it’s useful if an employer acquires medical evidence which shows that the applicant is physically capable of the job role before official employment commences. For example, is the prospective worker capable of unloading a vehicle, are they visually impaired, or do they have a condition which inhibits long hours on the road?
Medical reports, like references, are often made as a condition of a contract of employment offer because they cannot be asked for before an employer makes an offering. Related documentation can be a report, or instead a medical questionnaire, but the decision to ask for such should be wholly justified and clearly recorded. Also, employers must comply with the Data Protection Act when handling medical details and receive consent under the Access to Medical Reports Act 1998, since it concerns sensitive personal information.
Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks and criminal background checks
DBS checks originated in 2012 as a safeguarding measure. Typically, DBS checks only really apply to occupations which have an employee driving passenger-carrying vehicles like taxis and buses, this being known as engaging in ‘regulated activity’. Thus, those barred from working in regulated activity with children and adults will not pass a DBS check, and should not be so employed, in accordance with the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006.
Drivers within fleets that carry out business functions will not qualify for an enhanced DBS check, as their role is more to do with deliveries. In this instance, a basic DBS check will suffice. This particular check will reveal any unspent convictions relating to the candidate, and so affords fleet managers with an added level of assurance in the drivers they are responsible for. However, the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act makes it so that spent convictions aren’t reasonable grounds to refuse employment.
Essentially, it’s of substantial significance that employers carry out the various pre-employment checks we’ve discussed so that fleet managers can appraise themselves of the drivers they’ll be integrating. Granted, it’s not an easy task to implement all these checks within fleet procedures, nor easy for fleet managers to make any followingly adjustments. But, we at MICHELIN Connected Fleet place a heavy focus on fleet safety, and are accustomed to the involved arrangements. If you’re interested in help for the matter, as well as optimising the overall efficiency and sustainability of your fleet, then be sure to make an enquiry into our services today. For further reading, feel free to browse our resources center.