Are electronic signatures legally acceptable, admissable and enforceable in transport operations?

16 November 2022

Transport managers are used to drivers physically ‘wet’ signing to say they have ‘read and understood’ a whole raft of information, including the content of policy documents, method statements, risk assessments and written instructions. However, under the Electronic Communications Act 2000, electronic signatures and digital time stamps are both legally admissible evidence.

In the unfortunate event of an incident or compliance issue, or through routine audit, operators would be expected to provide evidence that they have communicated relevant legal and safety information to their staff. Historically, this has been done by physical signature, but that evidence can equally be a time stamped electronic confirmation or signature. Electronic confirmation, such as that provided via The Driver Handbook, is becoming more common because it is an effective, efficient, and easy way of evidencing communication with drivers. It automatically captures device and login IDs of the individual, the date and time the document was signed, and even the time spent on specific documents. By removing the probability of human error and automating the data capture process, a documented audit trail provides critical information to establish authenticity, should a signature’s validity come into question.

Communicating legal and safety critical information digitally to drivers also provides the obvious advantages of being able to instantly update documents and provide notification of any changes quickly rather than waiting for an annual update, as is often the case with hard copy equivalents.