Fleet drivers need clear vision

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• There is no legal requirement for employers to ensure drivers have good eyesight, or wear glasses if needed.
• From 2011, EU legislation will require commercial vehicle drivers to have their eyes tested every five years.
• Eye examinations can also check for health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
• Most health cash plans have optical provisions, allowing staff to claim back some or all eyecare costs.

Employers are not obliged to provide eyecare benefits for their fleet drivers, but there are compelling reasons for doing so, says Tynan Barton

Department for Transport statistics show that one-third of road crashes involve a vehicle being driven for work, and collision rates for business drivers are 30 to 40% higher than for private drivers.

It is common sense that better eyesight means safer driving, but what role should the employer play in fleet drivers’ eyecare? There are legal and financial incentives to ensure company drivers have good vision, says Paul Gambon, head of sales at Medicash. “The car, if used for work, is treated as a workplace. Health and safety law requires employers to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees at all times, but there is also responsibility to make sure others are not put at risk.”

There is no current legislation compelling drivers to have regular eye examinations, but an EU regulation, due to come into force in 2011, will require holders of commercial vehicle driving licences to have their eyes tested every five years, while holders of private car licences will need to have their vision tested only every 10 to 15 years.

Andrew Adams, sales manager at Edenred, says the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2008 raised questions about employers’ duty of care if a driver had an accident and it was deemed their vision was not good enough. “The best way an employer can protect itself is to provide sight tests for staff,” he says. “If the test determines that person needs to wear glasses, then writing into their contract to say that if they drive for work purposes, they must wear glasses, would go some way to protect the organisation and, hopefully, protect lives.”

Financial incentives useful

The financial incentives come into play if an employee’s driving improves as a result of better eyecare, says Gambon. “If individuals are having fewer accidents, then insurance premiums should be reduced, so providing decent eye care benefits for company fleet drivers pays for itself,” he points out.

Looking after fleet drivers’ eyecare not only reduces insurance premiums and meets health and safety requirements, but also shows the organisation is concerned about drivers’ health. An eye test, particularly if it includes digital retinal photography, can reveal conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure. “There are other benefits of providing an eye test rather than just the standard duty of care,” says Gambon. “It shows a caring responsibility towards staff.”

Employers have a few options to encourage drivers to have regular eye examinations. Most health cash plans include an optical provision, which helps to fund the test and the cost of glasses if needed.

Many opticians and benefit providers offer vouchers to cover the cost of eye tests. The employer can buy a book of vouchers to issue to employees when a test is required.

Employers should encourage drivers to take these benefits up, says Roddy Graham, commercial director of Leasedrive Velo and chairman of the Institute of Car Fleet Management. “It is that gentle encouragement to say ‘from a safety point of view, you really should have your eyes tested on a regular basis’. If staff are driving long distances, there is great value in making sure their eyes are not being damaged.”

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