Posted: Friday, 13 April 2018
If you own a business that require some of your employees to drive as part of their work, you might want to pay attention to a new graduated driving licence (GDL) programme being implemented in Northern Ireland. Great Britain has already said it will be studying the results of the pilot to see if doing the same thing in England and Wales would be practical.
According to numerous news outlets, younger drivers are the primary targets of the scheme. The idea is to issue GDLs that restrict the rights of younger drivers in order to give them time to become better acquainted with safe driving. Restrictions would gradually be lifted until a driver had full licence privileges.
The Daily Mail reports that the Department for Transport will be studying Northern Ireland's GDL programme for evidence that it could be useful here. The programme rolls out sometime in 2019.
Backers of the GDL say is necessary to prevent accidents and deaths among younger drivers. Statistics suggest that drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 are 30% more likely to die in a car accident than their counterparts aged 40 to 49. Furthermore, 25% of drivers between the ages of 18 and 24 are involved in a crash within two years of passing their driving test.
In order to reduce those numbers, the GDL programme stipulates the following:
The first provision should not have much of an impact on businesses depending on drivers given that it only applies to new drivers. A 20-year-old driver, for example, would be granted the full licence after six months of training just as an 18-year-old would. It is the second and third provisions that could prove tricky for employers.
No one has yet said whether the GDL will directly impact companies with driving employees. For all we know, it might only apply to passenger vehicles driven for non-business use. The rules certainly wouldn't affect CDL drivers either. The concern here is for companies that use passenger vehicles for business purposes.
If younger drivers are prohibited from carrying younger passengers, will that affect companies that may send out work teams in groups of two or three? Would it affect the ability of younger co-workers to travel together to meetings or training sessions in the same car?
There are lots of possibilities that create questions here. There is the probation issue, for one. How will the issuance of probationary licence plates affect insurance rates? Will it be more costly to allow probationary drivers to operate company vehicles? It's possible.
As you might imagine, Northern Ireland's GDL programme is a controversial one. Those in favour of it cite the young people who have died as a result of car crashes. Their concerns are both understandable and legitimate. On the other side though, critics say that GDLs are a questionable solution to a real problem.
Few would argue that younger drivers are more likely to be involved in serious accidents. Few would argue that a lack of experience combined with carelessness and recklessness are contributing factors. But is a graduated driving licence really the answer? Maybe, but maybe not.
A graduated driving licence simply restricts how younger drivers can operate their cars. One could argue that by doing so, we are not giving them the most and best opportunities to improve their skills. And if carelessness and recklessness are the bigger issues, they are not going to be adequately addressed by way of a six-month training or two years of probation.
The good news in all of this is that the GDL programme is only a pilot programme for now. If it does not achieve its desired results, there is a good chance it will be scrapped altogether. You can bet it will be implemented UK-wide if it proves successful.
Let's say it is implemented throughout the UK at some point in the future. That would mean a few different things for employers. First and foremost, it would certainly make real-time licence checks more important than ever before. Employers would have to know whether that young person applying for a job is still in the training period. They would want to know if said driver was still within the two-year probationary window.
In terms of day-to-day business, a GDL system would force employers to re-evaluate how company cars are used. They would have to be careful about sending younger drivers out with younger passengers. They would have to be careful about the hours those drivers put in behind the wheel.
Assuming insurance costs for probationary drivers increase, companies will also have to consult with their own insurance providers to see how drivers with GDLs impact their premiums. It could be that some companies simply stop allowing younger drivers to operate company cars because the insurance is too expensive.
There is a lot we still don't know about the Northern Ireland GDL pilot. We do know that it places significant restrictions on new drivers under the age of 24. We also know that it introduces a probationary period of two years. That's it. How it impacts businesses remains to be seen. Whether or not it actually decreases serious traffic accidents among young people will eventually be known.
Time will tell if the GDL is a good idea or not. In the meantime, businesses with employed drivers should pay attention to how all of this unfolds.
Sources: Daily Mail