An employee driving abroad on business - whether in a fleet vehicle or in his or her own car if it is used for business purposes - presents an employer with additional Duty of Care responsibilities. What do risk management specialists advise?

Did you know it is a legal requirement to keep your headlights on at all times in Latvia? Or that in Canada alcohol can only be carried in the boot of the car? These are just a couple of the handy hints from Drive Safe, a new international road safety initiative from National Car Rental. Drive Safe is designed to help business and leisure travellers drive safely in over 40 countries in Europe, Middle East and Africa, as well as the United States and Canada.

Ron Santiago, Vice President International Sales and Marketing for National says: ‘A survey conducted by National revealed how car rental is now seen as a necessity rather than a luxury. With corporate travellers from multinational companies driving in unfamiliar territories, remote airport locations used by budget airlines and the rise in independent leisure travel to more rural areas, driving on unfamiliar roads in a foreign destination is a common experience for many travellers. Drive Safe helps travellers enjoy their trip safely.’

Drive Safe provides information on city driving, country driving, road rules and road safety initiatives within each country. There is also information on driving regulations and requirements, essential local knowledge, a summary of driving terms and advice on motoring laws such as speed limits on motorways, alcohol limits and road tolls.

Santiago concludes: ‘Drive Safe exploits the vast pool of knowledge we have across the globe, ensuring all information will be kept up to date at a local level. Although we always aim to provide customers with advice at each location, by putting it all in one place and in one consistent format, they have the freedom to download the information where and when they need it.’

The IAM warns that driving abroad is different and can often be difficult, particularly if you don’t drive abroad regularly. Mark Edwards, Head of Training, 1AM Fleet explains that driving on the right hand side of the road will seem strange at first. ‘Make sure you know the rules of the road in the country that you are in and obey them. Many rules and traffic regulations will be the same as in the UK, but some countries do have particular rules and regulations. They are often enforced with greater firmness and being a tourist may not get you off the hook. For example, French autoroute police can calculate your average speed between toll booths, issue a ticket on this evidence alone and impose on-the-spot fines.

In some countries, again France for example, vehicles approaching from the right usually have priority. Local people will usually expect everybody to comply with this rule.

Make sure that you understand the meaning of all road signs and obey them. Most of them will be familiar to you and the meaning of those that are not should be fairly obvious. Remember the general rule is that triangles warn, circles prohibit and rectangles inform.’ In most European countries, it is a legal requirement that drivers carry a red warning triangle in case of breakdown or accident. If you do break down or have an accident, put the red triangle at least 50 metres (164ft) before the obstruction and on the same side of the road; 150 metres (492ft) on the hard shoulder of motorways. At night or in poor visibility do not stand behind your vehicle or let anyone else do so, it could prevent other drivers seeing your rear lights.

Do not drive too far without a break – tiredness can kill. Take a break every two hours and, if possible, change drivers regularly. Plan your route and make sure you have an up-to-date map. Bear in mind that it is after a break that you might be particularly at risk of transfer­ring to the ‘wrong’ side of the road, especially on stretch­es of low traffic-density single carriageway roads.

‘Overtaking is a difficult and potentially dangerous manoeuvre,’ says Mark Edwards. ‘Driving a right-hand-drive car on the “other” side of the road means you are not in the best position to see ahead. So try to be imagi­native with adjusting your road position for vision and hang back even further from the vehicle in front to improve visibility. Always remember, the decision to overtake is yours – do not rely on the judgement of the passenger in the front seat. Make sure that the car you are driving is roadworthy and that the headlights have been properly adjusted, if that is necessary.

‘Remember, you must tell your insurance company if you intend to take your own car abroad. You should also ask your insurance company if you need an International Driving Licence, Green Card or Bail Bond.

David Wallace, director of AA Business Services, says: ‘Managing the risk of both vehicles and drivers is becoming an increasing concern for businesses. As the UK’s number one breakdown assistance company, we have been attending and managing fleet accidents for nearly 80 years. As 65% of all road traffic accidents involve company car drivers, the new risk management service enables us to help businesses prevent accidents as well.’

JAAMA’s Guidelines for Driving Abroad

FLYING AND THEN DRIVING Jetlag, tired, or being over the drink drive limit for the country are all key risks with driving and hiring a vehicle. Companies should have policies on alcohol on flights if the employee has to drive at the destination. If the flight is long haul some other mode of trans­port should be considered other than a hire car as employees will be tired and disorientated.

RENTAL Risks associated with rental vehicles immediately focus on the type of vehicle being hired. Whenever hiring a vehicle it should be within the same band or type of vehi­cle that the employee is used to driving. Employees must familiarise themselves with the controls of the vehicle before driving off. Employees must be aware of all emergency contact details and check the vehicle has the relevant equipment in case of a breakdown. COMPANY CAR Ensure that the relevant documentation has been received from the contract hire company if necessary and that insurance is valid for travel abroad. Employees must be aware of all emergency contact details and check the vehicle has the relevant equipment in case of a breakdown.

EMPLOYEE-OWNED CAR Insurance is one of the key issues involved with employees driv­ing abroad on company business. The employer must check insurance policies before allowing an employee to drive abroad. The employer should also ensure that the vehicle is fit for pur­pose, has had regular servicing and checks are carried out fre­quently on items such as tyres, oil, wipers, washer fluid etc. All drivers/vehicles should have European roadside assistance or breakdown assistance for wherever they are travelling

JOURNEY PLANNING Provide employees with products to enable them to plan efficient journeys. They should know when they will be most sleepy and what to do if they feel tired. Follow company policy – for example, take a break every 2 hours for 15 minutes. If tired sleep for 20 minutes or stop overnight.

GENERIC INFORMATION • Speed limits – including wet weather speed limits • Age a driver must be to drive in any particular country • What drivers must carry within the vehicle such as spare bulbs and triangle, etc. Also, reflective jackets are now compulsory in Italy, Austria and Spain – In Spain you need a vest for every occupant of the vehicle. ” Road signs • Parking restrictions • Training on driving on the opposite side of the road • Advise key words and phrases in language drivers will need to know. For example, petrol/diesel/oil/tyre, etc. • Currency for tolls (with good journey planning this can be calculated in advance) • What to expect if caught for speeding – normally anon the spot fine. • Miles v kilometres • Take extra care when driving on the right especially when pulling off on the left side of the road. • Seat belts are obligatory rear and front • Always carry vehicle documentation like V5 and certificate of insurance or carry a letter from the registered keeper. • Headlamp converters are compulsory.