New HSE driving at work guidance marks “major expansion” for fleet responsibilities

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13th September 2021

New Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance covering gig economy and contractors marks a “potential major expansion” for fleet responsibilities, according to the industry experts.

The new guidance, announced last week, aims to set the record straight over where responsibility for health and safety lies for anyone driving for work, following a rise in the so-called ‘gig economy’ and the increasing use of personal vehicles for work purposes.

According to the Association of Fleet Professionals (AFP), the changes are significant.

Chair Paul Hollick said: “They mean that any business that uses gig economy workers or contractors now have the same responsibility for their drivers and vehicles as any other part of the grey fleet – and that means, of course, they are on the same footing as for their own company cars and vans.

“This is potentially impactful. Increasing numbers of vehicles have been operated for businesses outside of usual fleet bounds in recent years, especially as we have seen massive growth in all kinds of home delivery, ranging from internet retail giants to fast food. All of these drivers and vehicles now clearly fall under the same area of legal responsibility as any other company car or van.”

However, Hollick said there were questions over how affected businesses will move to comply.

“Levels of grey fleet compliance are arguably not that high and it is perhaps unlikely that your local sandwich delivery business will quickly adopt all of these measures. At the other end of the scale, there may also be resistance from people such as large internet retailers, who might pursue a similar third-party argument to that used by Uber in terms of employee rights.”

And he noted that grey fleet has historically been an area where fleet managers can struggle to take control because of lack of support from their board or other departments, “who are often slow to acknowledge the need for compliance”.

FleetCheck has also warned that a wide range of businesses could potentially be affected by the newly revised Driving at Work document.

Peter Golding, managing director at the fleet software specialist points out, said: “We have been arguing for some time that everyone from courier to fast food delivery drivers should be covered under normal fleet management responsibilities. The new guidance makes it clear that the HSE agrees.”

With the legal position on this now clear, Golding said that affected businesses need to ensure that any fleet activity that is carried out on the behalf of their business meets usual standards.

“Just ensuring that a driver holds a valid licence and a vehicle is insured and has an MOT is almost certainly no longer sufficient. This marks a potential major expansion of fleet management responsibilities for businesses ranging from home delivery giants to your local take away.”

But, like Hollick, he said there would be a question mark over how quickly these responsibilities would be met, given the track record of many businesses.

“These new responsibilities appear to be similar, or effectively the same, as those covering grey fleets, and that is an area where quite large numbers of employers fail to enforce the same standards as for their own company cars and vans.

“We don’t expect to see any sudden rush to meet the guidance, therefore. This is something that will probably take a number of years to percolate through the fleet sector.”

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