Driving and riding for work

Last updated: 19 Dec 2023

This article explains how you and your employer can ensure your safety while driving or riding for work

Why road safety matters at work

Few organisations can operate without using the road, yet for many employers it is likely to be the most dangerous activity that takes place at work. Research shows that around a third of road deaths are sustained in accidents involving a working driver or rider – that’s around 500 people every year.

Work-related road risk is no different from any other workplace health and safety issue. Whether you are driving your own car, or a vehicle belonging to your employer, your employer has a legal duty to do everything reasonably practicable to protect you and your colleagues from harm.

Nevertheless, too many employers treat driving for work as an afterthought. Many companies focus on driver-centred interventions such as training, yet pay little attention to working practices and pressures which require staff drive thousands of miles a year, often at peak times and to tight deadlines.


Employer responsibility for work-related road safety

Your employer has duties to protect you. They must:

  • Ensure you are competent to drive or ride and provide you with relevant training and information
  • Plan and assess your journeys so they are safe for you
  • Ensure the design of your vehicle does not compromise your health


Work-related road safety and the law

Two sets of law apply to work-related road safety: road traffic law and occupational health and safety law.

Health and safety law is primarily concerned with employers establishing safe systems of work. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and its associated regulations, employers must assess anything on the road that may foreseeably harm staff while they are working and do everything reasonably practicable to protect them. The aim is to make the risk of someone being harmed as low as possible. For more on this risk assessment process for driving, see below.

Employers must speak to staff or their representatives about the risk assessment, as they are likely to have first-hand experience of the issues that need to be managed.

Road Traffic law is concerned mainly with individual driver behaviour and the vehicle owner. When vehicles are used on public roads or in a public place, road traffic legislation takes precedence over health and safety law. As far as road traffic law is concerned, you are likely to be the principal dutyholder while you are diving.

There are at least 25 pieces of legislation, guidance and protocol relating to at-work driving, covering everything from speed and insurance, to vehicle roadworthiness and mobile phone use which you must be informed of.

Various road traffic laws require employers to ensure that vehicles used for work purposes are safe and legal to be on the road, and that drivers are properly licensed and insured. Employers can be charged with “cause or permit” offences if they fail to do so.

For instance, under section 40A of the Road Traffic Act 1988 it is an offence for someone to use, or cause or permit another person to use, a vehicle which poses a danger of injury to someone else out on the road.


Assessing risk: safe driver, safe vehicle, safe journey

When carrying out a risk assessment, employers should focus on three areas: a safe driver, a safe vehicle and a safe journey.

Safe driver

  • Do drivers have the skills, experience and knowledge required to drive safely?
  • Do drivers have clear instructions on how to keep themselves safe?
  • Do drivers know to carry out vehicle checks?
  • Are drivers sufficiently fit and healthy to drive safely? Do they satisfy the eyesight and other health requirements of the Highway Code and the DVLA?

Safe vehicle

  • Are vehicles maintained in a safe and fit condition for use?
  • Are vehicles appropriate for the purpose for which they are used?
  • When purchasing new vehicles, are safety features and driver aids, such as Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) or camera systems and proximity sensors, considered?
  • Is drivers’ health, and possibly safety, is being put at risk by poor ergonomics, e.g. from an inappropriate seating position or driving posture?

Safe journey

  • Is the journey necessary? If it is, can a safer mode of transport be used, like the railway?
  • Are routes planned thoroughly, taking account of things like the type of roads to be used?
  • Are schedules realistic?
  • Are poor weather conditions considered?


Driving your own car for work

Employers must also consider staff members who drive their own cars for work – something often called “grey fleet” – when carrying out a risk assessment, just as they do to employees who drive vehicles which they have provided. However, health and safety law does not apply to people commuting, unless they are travelling to or from somewhere that is not their usual place of work.

As it is an offence to “cause or permit” a person to drive a vehicle that is in a dangerous condition or without a valid licence or insurance, employers may have procedures to ensure that all vehicles used for work, irrespective of who owns them, are safe and properly maintained, and are fit for purpose.


What you can do to protect yourself on the road

There are things that you can do to protect yourself while on the road. They include:

  • Take regular breaks to prevent fatigue. Almost 20% of accidents on major roads are sleep-related
  • Never use a mobile while driving. You are four times more likely to be in a crash if you use your phone
  • Never drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Remember: some prescription drugs can adversely affect your ability to drive
  • Report vehicle defects and never drive a defective vehicle
  • Inform your line manager of any health problems or personal circumstances that could make driving hazardous
  • Have regular eye tests and, if necessary, use your eyewear
  • Drive within speed limits and to the speed dictated by conditions, which may mean driving at less than the limit
  • Carry out weekly regular checks of your vehicle, examining things like brake function, oil, coolant and windscreen wash levels, and tyre condition
  • Carry out checks before you set out on a journey, looking at issues such as whether the brakes and indicators are working, and that the mirrors are correctly positioned.


If you’re having problems

If you are concerned about your health and safety because of work related driving, speak to your Prospect health and safety representative, if you work in a workplace where the union is recognised. The rep may be able to offer advice, raise the issue with management, and perhaps even secure improvements for everyone.

It is also worth speaking to your line manager if you feel comfortable to do so – they may be able to provide you with information or take action to make the driving you are required to do safer.

Members can also get in touch with Prospect via our member contact centre.


More Prospect resources:

Prospect members’ guide to safer driving and work-related road risk 

Further reading:

Health and Safety Executive guidance for workers who drive or ride for work 

Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) road safety advice and information