ANNUAL LEAVE COVER
Unmanaged, annual leave can leave you with a big headache. Your staff are entitled to 5.6 weeks of annual leave for every 12 months worked, if they work 5 days per week. And summer is the most popular time of year for time off, particularly if drivers have families and need to work around school holidays.
How to manage annual leave
Unfortunately, school holidays are also a tricky time of year for haulage companies, as extra traffic and increased maintenance bills lead to heavier demands on routes and drivers. Planning ahead, and managing your regular drivers’ annual leave requests is vital.
Fairness is the key to a successful annual leave policy. It’s a good idea to write an obligation into your drivers’ contracts, which specifies the minimum notice period they must give for an annual leave request. This gives you time to arrange suitable cover. A visible holiday’s calendar is also a good leave management tool: drivers can see who has already booked holiday, and will be motivated to arrange their own leave accordingly. If your leave policy dictates that a minimum number of regular drivers must be available at all times, staff can see at a glance if their leave request is likely to be approved or denied.
Getting the best cover
The best cover for annual leave comes from your other regular drivers. They know company policy, they’ve been trained to company standards, and they are familiar with routes and refueling requirements. Where possible, your annual leave management process should be geared towards leaving a predetermined number of regular staff available for work at busy times of year.
It’s not always possible to fully cover your routes when some drivers are on annual leave, of course. Smaller haulage companies in particular may need to employ temporary drivers while their regular ones are away.
Be sure to assess cover drivers for health, road knowledge, and practical skills—as you would with any new employee. The process may represent a big investment, in both time and money, but it’s necessary to uphold your duty of care to your employees and other road users.
Driver training for cover staff
Cover drivers should also be trained, again as you would train any new driver. This ensures their abilities fall in line with your expectations and requirements. Training should focus on safe, defensive driving skills. Fleet managers are particularly encouraged to follow common-sense rules for mandating driving speed and style in built-up areas, around schools, shops, and homes, and where road layout creates blind spots.
Drivers should be trained in company drink and drug policy, driver distraction, and health and health awareness. Carry out assessments on your cover staff, and consider monitoring with telematics to ensure driver behaviour falls within company guidelines.
Cover staff should also be trained to carry out pre-drive spot checks on their vehicles. Consider implementing pre-drive checklists, either on paper or electronically, which can be signed off before every journey.