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A parliamentary Private Members Bill is seeking to make it a legal requirement

Spotting the Signs of Dementia in the Haulage Sector

Aug 2019

A parliamentary Private Members Bill is seeking to make it a legal requirement for a doctor to inform either the DVLA or DVA (Northern Ireland) if a patient has received a dementia diagnosis. But with no clear idea of when this might become law, the onus is still currently on the individual to instigate the notification, whilst making their employer aware of their situation, if it affects their role.

Dementia can be hard to spot in a busy, stressful environment like freight transport, where general pressures and workloads emanate from a well-documented driver shortage and constant legislative pressures. The stress-load could even increase, if EU drivers leave Britain after Brexit.

Both health and safety and driving legislation expect employers to keep their eye on the ball and with 850,000 UK dementia sufferers already, and over one million expected by 2025, it pays to know what to look out for.

A commercial driver should inform their employer of a dementia diagnosis, as it is a legal requirement to advise your insurer of your medical condition, as well as notifying the vehicle licensing authority. If not, an insurance claim could be repudiated on the basis of a material fact having not been declared. But with one-in-three early-stage dementia sufferers still on the road after their diagnosis, the legal requirement to report the situation to either the DVLA or DVA, and the insurance company too, could be overlooked.

Another scenario is that of the HGV driver who simply does not realise they are suffering from dementia and puts forgetfulness, difficulty in remembering names, mood swings and struggles in processing information down to other things. In one real-life example, an HGV driver only discovered his dementia when he stopped for a brew and was then unable to remember where he had parked.

Driving equates to freedom for many people and to lose such liberty is hard to contemplate. However, informing the DVLA of a dementia diagnosis does not necessarily lead to a revocation of a licence. Often, a driver would be given a one-year licence, renewed after 12 months, if a driving-focused medical assessment judged them fit to drive.

Haulage operators should keep a watchful eye on all drivers, as many medical conditions have to be notified to the vehicle licensing bodies. Changes in a driver and poor concentration, lack of alertness and difficulty in processing information should ring some alarm bells. Telematics data could highlight issues with braking distances or spatial awareness, which could also be down to dementia or mental illness.

However, whilst telematic tools could help with a diagnosis, there is no substitute for observation and acting on a gut-feeling. It is better to keep everyone safe by sending a driver for tests at a Memory Assessment Centre, just to confirm the situation, than suffer a life-threatening or serious accident.

This is just part of building a robust, risk-aware culture that can help reduce insurance premiums and make a business a more attractive risk for an insurer. Working with a broker should enable you to be backed by strong insurer presentations at renewal time, to influence decisions in your favour and keep your costs down. To find an expert broker to work with you on this, please use our ‘Find a Local Broker’ tool.