A license to operate a vehicle doesn’t always imply fitness to drive it. Here are the essentials that drivers and employers should know about mental and physical fitness to drive in order to legally operate a commercial van.
Fitness to drive involves not only a good level of vision and hearing, but also sound judgement, planning and organisation, memory, and the ability to sustain concentration. And these are just a few of the requirements of safe driving, as defined by the DVLA.
What are the factors that determine fitness to drive ?
A number of medical conditions, both permanent and temporary, can adversely affect a driver’s ability to safely operate a van. There are legal requirements for vision and hearing to abide, and any disease or medication currently being taken by the driver affecting these senses could potentially be dangerous for the operation of a vehicle.
Cognitive processes like attention, short- and long-term memory, and sound judgment can also be affected by a variety of diseases, as well as some medications. Mental illness and addiction can impede these processes, affecting a driver’s fitness. Even temporary stress or sleep disturbance can render someone unfit to drive.
For details on driver fitness from distinct medical fields and for specific conditions, start at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) guidelines sheet.
What are employers’ responsibilities?
Employers are responsible for making sure their van operators are fit for work, and should keep tabs on any relevant health concerns. This involves assessing the capabilities and rehabilitative needs of drivers when they return to work after significant events, such as an operation, injury, illness or personal loss. HSE provides a guide for doing so.
Moreover, DVLA requirements state that drivers’ fitness should be evaluated both prior to employment and at five-year intervals from age 45. It is also recommended that employers encourage their drivers to undergo eye testing at least every two years.
Managing stress is another essential part of maintaining driver fitness. Overworked or stressed employees make for unsafe drivers. Vehicle ergonomics are also important, as poorly positioned drivers can put undue stress on certain parts of their body. This can lead to future or chronic health problems as well as unsafe driving. Therefore, it’s a good idea to help drivers make the most of any ergonomic adjustments available to them.
Drivers’ responsibilities when it comes to fitness to drive
Communicating these policies in a clear and effective manner is an important part of workplace safety. Drivers too are responsible for not operating vans if they are not fit to do so at any given time. Crucially, they must also communicate that fact to their employer, who must absolutely take their claims seriously. Moreover, it is essential that members of staff feel confident they can report their health issues or concerns without fear of retaliation.
Drivers need to be given regular breaks, as excessive work – such as driving for extended periods – can result in unsafe driving. It is also essential that drivers utilize proper lifting techniques to ensure the safe loading and unloading of any goods they might be moving.
Maintaining driver fitness is as much a question of your business culture as it is a legal concern. Healthy drivers will always be safer, happier, and more productive, so don’t cut any corners.