Licence Checking Legal Background

It is an offence under Section 87 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 “for a person to drive on a road a motor vehicle of any class otherwise than in accordance with a licence authorising him/her to drive a motor vehicle of that class.”  The Act also creates the offence of ‘causing or permitting another person to drive a motor vehicle without a licence’.  So an offence may be committed under the Road Traffic Act by the careless employer who “causes or permits” a driver to commit the offence.  

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires employers ‘to ensure as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees’.  

The Act makes specific reference to ensuring that employees are properly instructed, trained and supervised.  Plant and equipment should be properly maintained and reasonably safe to use.  

The Health and Safety Executive in their published guidance “Driving At Work: Managing Work Related Road Safety” make it clear that any vehicle used for work should be properly maintained and safe for the purpose (irrespective of its ownership) and that checks should be implemented to ensure that drivers are properly qualified and entitled to drive the vehicle in question.   In short, employers should as a matter of course check that employees hold a valid driving licence that entitles them to drive their vehicle. 

The practice of checking driving licences is now widely accepted by employers. It should be considered the norm whenever employees are likely to drive on behalf of the business. There is no excuse not to do this.

It should not be a one-off check. Drivers can be suspended, disqualified or convicted of offences over time and driving licence entitlements will expire. So employers need to perform driving licence checks on a regular basis according to the nature of their business and the risks presented to other employees and members of the public. Vocational drivers of Large Goods Vehicles and Passenger Carrying Vehicles should have their licences checked more frequently. The risk of harm being suffered to passengers or other road users from a large vehicle is recognised as greater than that presented by a car, van or motorcycle.

Those drivers with a higher number of points on their licence should be checked more frequently to ensure that they remain entitled to drive. If such a driver presents a particular danger, other forms of intervention in the shape of additional assessment and training may be required.