Matt de Prez gives a run-down of seven organisations ready and willing to help a company improve its safety standards by sharing best practice - as improved safety doesn't just happen by accident.
Improving the safety and compliance of your fleet can save your business money, help it build stronger commercial relationships and improve the working conditions of your drivers.
The focus on road safety is cascading throughout all levels of the industry – be it van or truck – and there is increasing pressure on all fleets to comply with the very highest standards.
Many companies, for example, need to prove their fleet safety credentials before they are even awarded contracts.
Thankfully, there is a huge network of support that has been built and developed over a period of more than 100 years to help reduce the number of casualties and collisions on our roads and improve the professionalism of the industry.
We take a look at a handful of the organisations which you are likely to encounter, outline what they do and how they can help you. Some are voluntary and some are required by law.
Whether they campaign for tougher regulations, share best practice or offer training and accreditation, all of them have played a part in improving the safety of fleets across the country.
Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA)
For almost 100 years RoSPA has been working to change both legislation and attitudes surrounding accidents.
As a registered charity, it performs varied activities including campaigning, research, influencing legislation, informing and educating, auditing and providing consultancy to businesses.
Initiatives include the compulsory wearing of seatbelts, the campaign to stop drink-driving and the more recent ban on using hand-held mobile phones behind the wheel.
For fleet managers the charity offers a range of training programmes, including driver and transport manager Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) and advanced driving.
Andrew Love, fleet audit consultant at RoSPA, says: “Our Driver Profiler 4 tool focuses on distractions, speed, co-operation, dealing with pressure, violations and journey planning. It is designed to measure the attitude and behaviour of drivers via questions designed by RoSPA’s in-house road safety experts, through investigation of the individual’s history and the type of driving they do.”
The organisation also helps companies identify gaps in their Managing Occupational Road Risk policies.
“We aren’t just looking at drivers and their training, but also management systems, policy implementation, behaviour and planning,” says Love.
Road Haulage Association (RHA)
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) is a trade association dedicated solely to the needs of UK road transport operators.
It provides its members with advice, information and guidance, plus up-to-the-minute research and a code of conduct. More than 6,000 companies are registered with the RHA, operating 80,000 HGVs.
The RHA offers a range of products and services including training, legal services and insurance.
Its helpline deals with more than 21,000 calls a year, assisting members with compliance and efficient operation.
Colin Snape, deputy policy director at RHA, says: “A big step toward making our roads safe for all users is awareness and preparedness, and we believe the best way to do this is to keep our members educated and informed.”
Its lobbying function gives RHA members the opportunity to shape those policies that impact on their livelihood.
Snape says: “We have been campaigning to ensure fair rates for overnight and meal allowances, to ensure that drivers spending long periods on the road are as comfortable as possible.
“We encourage drivers to eat as healthily as possible so as to avoid some of the most common problems facing long-haul drivers, such as obesity and inertia.
“We are also aiming to offer support to drivers who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the aftermath of traffic accidents.”
The RHA also works with local authorities on campaigns designed to make drivers aware of the dangers of using a phone at the wheel, and how the risk of accidents is so much higher when they’re driving distracted.
Office of the Traffic Commissioner
Traffic commissioners (TCs) provide two key services to truck operators and drivers: upholding fair competition and acting as gatekeepers to the industry.
In 2015/16, staff working on behalf of the traffic commissioners processed more than 14,500 licence applications, supported 1,557 public inquiries by TCs and Deputy TCs and closed more than 11,000 conduct cases into the vocational licences held by professional truck, bus and coach drivers.
“Our independent status is valued by industry and there is widespread support to keep our decision-making functions separate from enforcement agencies and government. Our independence is also recognised by higher courts,” says Richard Turfitt, senior traffic commissioner.
Traffic commissioners are working towards two primary objectives: to deliver a modern, effective operator licensing regime and promoting a safe road transport industry which supports compliance, fair competition and protects the environment.
Turfitt says: “While I will work with the TC Board to make sure we fulfil our duties as regulators, the industry has its own role to play in road safety and fair competition. The past year saw the haulage industry in the national news as a result of poor maintenance.
“The responsible bodies need to identify these operators and drivers promptly. As regulators, we are working to make sure our public inquiry time is available to deal with those cases urgently. That is why TCs have introduced new procedures to take the less serious cases away from full hearings. This work is still in its infancy but I also want us to open up our experience of risk-based decision-making when targeting our interventions.”
Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA)
The Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is responsible for all legal compliance in relation to vehicles. From driver licences and Certificates of Professional Competence (CPCs) to vehicle MOTs.
This year, the DVSA is launching Earned Recognition, a scheme to help differentiate between those operators that are compliant with O-licence requirements and those that aren’t.
Gordon MacDonald, DVSA head of enforcement policy, says: “For DVSA, earned recognition is very much recognition of exemplar leaders whose compliance systems and standards already meet our highest standards. We hope it acts as inspiration to companies whose systems don’t already meet those standards.”
The DVSA wants to categorise organisations in terms of risk. By awarding earned recognition to part of the industry it can concentrate resources on those who pose the most danger to road users.
“We appreciate that we can’t do this ourselves. It’s a massive undertaking. This needs to be a collaborative approach where DVSA works together with operators, compliance system providers and auditors to maximise the benefits to all,” MacDonald adds.
Earned Recognition is a voluntary scheme holders of O-licences can apply for. There are terms and conditions that the operator must prove are being met. If all credentials are passed at audit then the operator will gain exemption from roadside checks.
Brake is a charity which promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies.
It spreads best practice through campaigns, community education, information and advice for organisations operating fleets of vehicles and its annual Road Safety Week. Brake also provides support to victims of road collisions.
Brake chief executive Mary Williams says: “We are still at the beginning of the battle against lack of interest from many organisations in road risk management. There are many out there that are doing very little. We need to be a little bit pragmatic and recognise there is more to be done.
“We’re not about compliance, we are about road risk management and corporate social responsibility across the piece in terms of operation of vehicles.”
She adds:“It’s not just about safety but also sustainability. We look particularly at procurement and maintenance. We also look at the value of reducing journeys and making sure they are appropriately managed in terms of routing and content, but also opportunities using other modes or vehicle types.”
The charity wants to become increasingly globally positioned and is developing a standards committee to develop some minimum fleet safety standards that can be implemented worldwide.
“The challenges of managing driver behaviour are notoriously difficult but the fleet sector is an area where people can be influenced and managed in their driving habits both through organisational regulation and through technology,” says Williams.
“I think our role working with fleets is more important than ever because of the moral high-ground that we bring to it especially around corporate social responsibility.”
Freight Transport Association (FTA)
Companies moving goods by road, sea, rail or air can access support from the Freight Transport Association (FTA). For road fleet operators it has two distinct schemes: Van Excellence and Truck Excellence.
James Hookham, deputy chief executive of the FTA, says: “We broke new ground with van excellence. It was an attempt to define what good looks like in the LCV sector, outside of O-licencing. That was really driven by fleet operators saying they want to distinguish themselves from ‘white van man’.”
The FTA got together with some of the UK’s biggest fleets to develop the accreditation process and define a standard.
Hookham says: “A lot of fleet managers have said it helps them drive the necessary changes in behaviour and ownership of responsibility down through the business.”
There are now more than 130 fleets in van excellence and the organisation has gone on to develop Truck Excellence.
Hookham says: “Our members told us they want recognition for having an O-licence.”
Truck Excellence is a unique scheme which ensures operators are fully compliant with all aspects of O-licence.
“It’s all very well asking have you got an O-licence, but then we need to show evidence that the traffic commissioner would expect to see. Sometimes that’s not there.
“If you join the scheme you get the helping hand to get you through the compliance and ensure you adhere to it,” Hookham explains.
The FTA is now developing the accreditation to allow operators to achieve Earned Recognition from the DVSA when it goes live later this year.
“Our future role and strategy will be around Earned Recognition. We want DVSA to be able to switch to looking at non-compliant operators,” says Hookham.
Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS)
The Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) is an accreditation scheme open to all commercial fleets looking to operate in a safer manner.
Operators can apply for Bronze, Silver or Gold accreditation but awards are only made following a successful audit.
It currently has 4,600 members, 200 of which have achieved the highest Gold standard.
A number of businesses now specify FORS accreditation as a requirement for any contractors looking to work with them.
FORS director John Hix says: “We set ourselves apart from lobbying organisations or trade associations. We are, first and foremost, about setting and upholding standards in order to drive safety and efficiency.
“Our members have exclusive access to a number of great benefits, including funded training and support tools to help them attain and maintain their accreditation. We also have a governance board, which is made up of industry experts to help us focus on how we should be adapting to further benefit our members.”
FORS members have access to FORS Professional, a training programme that encompasses the scheme’s three core principles of best practice in safety, efficiency and environmental protection.
The programme includes training courses, regional workshops, eLearning, practical toolkits, guides and advice.
Hix adds: “The scheme aims to help operators implement best practice. We work hard with our members to help them reach the highest standards of efficiency and safety within their operations.
“We also encourage progression, by showing our members how to carefully monitor their own standards. They can improve and work their way through the different levels of membership, from Bronze to Silver and on to Gold.”
Top Tips for an effective and robust accident management policy
Mounting pressure on fleets to improve driver behaviour and reduce accidents has led to many accident management policies becoming more proactive.
But, even with the highest levels of compliance and training, accidents do still happen and it’s crucial you have a robust reactive policy in place to protect your driver, your vehicle and, ultimately, your entire business.
The Golden Hour
It’s crucial drivers know they must call in any incident immediately – ideally within an hour. “Once you’ve been involved in a collision there is a whole industry out there trying to make money from that collision,” says Andy Price, principal motor risk consultant at Zurich.
Getting to the third party first allows you to control their replacement vehicle requirement, deal with any potential injury claim and ultimately manage costs.
Information relating to the accident will be vital when assessing claims, especially if there is a dispute over liability.
The driver should be equipped to photograph the scene and be aware of what evidence to collect.
“We are trialling forward-facing cameras. We’ve found camera evidence has been very useful,” says Keith Cook, deputy financial controller at Computacenter.
Graham Bellman, fleet director at Travis Perkins, adds: “We are about to roll out an app which takes the very basic details and reminds the driver what they need. The more we can help prompt drivers to gather that information the better.”
Make your policy stick
No matter how well written your policy is, if your drivers don’t understand it or follow it then all your hard work will go to waste.
Clare Cain, group risk manager at Kelly Group, says: “If drivers don’t want to follow the policy then I will remove them. I have that level of buy-in from the managers which allows me to make that call.
Cook adds: “We charge our drivers an excess for damage, but we halve it if it’s reported within 24 hours. If they report within an hour there is no charge.”
Getting back on the road
If your vehicle is on the road then it’s probably costing your business money for every minute that it’s not moving.
Someone somewhere is likely waiting for that vehicle or driver to arrive, so having a replacement vehicle provision is key.
Rental companies can provide replacement vehicles, usually within two hours, to keep your fleet on the move.
“Many of the newer, flexi-rental and mini-lease offerings on the market do not provide a replacement vehicle as standard,” warns David Brennan, CEO at Nexus Vehicle Rental.
Long-term welfare of your driver
Collisions don’t just affect us physically so it’s important that you offer drivers a support network in the aftermath.
Nick Williams, RAC Accident Management managing director, says too many companies just focus on the bent metal and vehicle damage.
Bellman says: “We have a big support mechanism within the business; there is everything from counselling through to post-incident assessments, debriefs and training.”
Cain adds: “You have to offer support following an accident, not just to improve the driver’s skills but also to ensure they aren’t suffering from stress of depression. Even if the accident isn’t their fault, it can still have profound consequences.”
The in-house or outsource debate
Deciding who is responsible for handling accidents is the first hurdle when looking at accident management.
There is a wide range of providers who will offer varied packages to suit your needs. Fleets can opt for partial or fully outsourced models dependent on their requirements.
The RAC’s Nick Williams says: “Accident management experts will know exactly what actions to take following an incident. They will not only be able to help you with the administrative burden and control accident spend via their supply chain, they will also help you build a picture of what you are spending and where.”
Keith Cook of Computacenter adds: “We’ve outsourced accident management for a long time. Purely because it needs specialist knowledge – I’d far rather pay somebody that’s got the skills to handle that.”
But Kelly Group’s Clare Cain handles everything in-house, including repairing the third party vehicle. “We know our drivers, we want to have that first conversation with them and we want to have full control over that claim,” she explains.