Following figures revealing that foreign drivers had swapped their driving licences for UK equivalents without having to pass a driving test in the UK, companies are being warned the drivers they employ may not be familiar with UK driving laws, leaving companies exposed under duty of care laws.
Derby-based Licence Check said that this reciprocal arrangement could leave companies at risk after figures obtained under the freedom of information act showed a rising number of foreign motorists are using a legal loophole to get a British licence without taking a driving test in the UK. Over the last decade, there has been a 79% rise in the number of foreign drivers trading their licence in for a UK one.
Last year more than 150,000 drivers who took their test outside Britain obtained a UK licence under an exchange deal operated by the government. Britain has a reciprocal deal with more than 50 countries, which allows drivers to take driving tests in their own countries and then swap their licence for a UK one when they become British residents.
Some of those countries that the reciprocal deal has been made with don’t undergo the same or similar testing standards as operated to in the UK, with some drivers able to pass their test in just six days time in their country of origin.
The highest number of driving licence exchanges has been made by those with Romanian licences, followed by Poland, Italy and Bulgaria. However, all of these countries drive on the right, rather than on the left as we do in the UK, and often under very different driving conditions which do not mirror the increasingly congested roads we experience in this country.
The news comes at a time of a shortage of professional drivers in this country, with the Freight Transport Association recently warning about the combined impact of an ageing professional HGV driver workforce and a lack of new entrants coming through – which could leave the door open for more foreign drivers.
Richard Brown, director of sales at Licence Check, now part of online solutions provider, Ebbon-Dacs, said: “This reciprocal arrangement could leave companies very exposed under duty of care regulations, as they owe a duty of care not just to their employees, including all company drivers, but to the wider public at large who they might come into contact with.
“We are seeing growing numbers of foreign delivery and service drivers in this country. You only have to think of parcel delivery firms to appreciate the growing numbers of foreign drivers on our roads.
“If a foreign driver working for a UK company was to cause an accident on our roads due to a lack of knowledge of our driving conditions, that could have major ramifications for the employer and could ultimately lead to prosecution.”
Brown said companies needed to carry out risk assessment of its drivers to identify those most at risk while driving for business, and if those that fell into this category included foreign-trained drivers then appropriate measures needed to be put in place.
“This could include remedial measures such as a supervised assessment and driver training,” he said.
Licence Check’s main cloud-based Driver and Vehicle Information Solution brand, DAVIS, has been designed specifically to automate and streamline driver and vehicle compliance management and address duty of care, the company added, which allows users to not only assess all drivers but to identify those that would present the highest risk to the business’s operations.