Temporary removal of D4 medical does not mean drivers are fit to drive!

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Temporary removal of D4 medical does not mean drivers are fit to drive!

Published 27 abril 2020

The government has recently announced (Friday 17th April 2020) a change which applies to lorry and bus drivers whose licences are due to expire or have expired, since 1 January 2020. This is the temporary removal of the routine D4 medical for drivers over 45 years of age.

The aim of this action from government is to support these drivers who are doing a fantastic job in very difficult circumstances, to keep the country fed and moving and to ensure NHS staff can prioritise vital work on tackling the coronavirus pandemic in this country.

Without doubt, this relaxation will certainly make a huge positive difference during these extremely difficult and testing times for these vital keyworkers. The move will make it easier for lorry and bus drivers to renew their driving licence and it is estimated it will keep 30,000 drivers on the road each month. They will be able to apply for a 1-year licence without the need to provide further medical evidence, as long as they are fit to drive.

However: ‘As long as they are fit to drive!’ is a massive caveat, which leads on to a more important and difficult question: ‘Who actually knows if a driver is fit to drive?’

The employer definitely needs to know the answer but cannot answer the question. This is due to a number of reasons mainly being they are not qualified to do so, they have to rely on their drive to tell them otherwise and do they know what medical conditions need to be reported.

The driver definitely needs to know the answer but cannot answer the question unless they have been told otherwise by the GP or another medical professional who has been treating them. Therefore, the driver only knows if they have a medical condition if they have actually been diagnosed and it is recorded on their medical records.

However, once the driver knows they have a medical condition, do they actually know if they need to report it to the DVLA and their employer? The answer to this question in the large majority of cases in NO.

This is due to the fact that very few employers and drivers know what medical conditions need to be reported to the DVLA. In addition, the onus is on the driver to self-report to the DVLA for 97% of the medical conditions that need reporting, regardless of the age of the driver.

Another issue to consider here is whether a reportable medical condition actually needs to affect the driver’s ability to drive safely. To put this into a little more perspective, for lorry and bus drivers there are over 180 medical conditions that are reportable to the DVLA. However, of these, 164 are mandatory reportable regardless of whether the driver’s ability to drive is affected or not.

Unfortunately for employers and drivers, ignorance is no defence. Whether a driver requires a D4 medical or not, if a medical condition is recorded on the driver’s medical records the employer needs to know and the driver need to tell them. Not just from a driver well-being stand point but to ensure the validity of any motor insurance policy.

In 2017, Direct Line Insurance conducted a survey and estimate 10% of drivers (4.4 million) are driving with a medical condition that should be reported to the DVLA and affects their entitlement to drive. It is a criminal offence not to report to DVLA any mandatory medical condition or any medical condition that affects your ability to drive safely. Failure to report such medical conditions will result in a £1000 fine for each unreported medical condition.

Just because there has been a relaxation of the D4 medicals, fleet operators need to implement robust measures to identify, educate and support their drivers. There are numerous processes and procedures they can implement to manage this issue which should be detailed in a specific Fitness to Drive Policy.

To find out more, contact Charlotte Le Maire at clemaire@dacbeachcroft.com or call on 07905 276452.

Co-author: Andrew Drewary – Road Safety Consultant - Road Safety Smart


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