A driver passport, which could help raise standards and put van drivers on a more professional footing, is being considered by leading fleet operators.
The passport would include an agreed minimum level of driver training – proof that the driver is competent behind the wheel – and reduce the need for retraining when fleets take on new employees from other businesses. It would also create a formal qualification, which the fleet could then choose to top up with training, with its own customer service standards, for example.
The initiative is being spearheaded by the Freight Transport Association (FTA) in discussions with several leading van fleet operators.
They include AAH Pharmaceuticals, Balfour Beatty, Clancy Docwra, Iron Mountain, Speedy Hire and Virgin Media.
Adrian Wanford, group transport manager at Balfour Beatty, recognises the benefits a driver passport could bring.
“It is a challenge to keep on top of training when drivers move on,” he said. “We want a transferable training record, similar to the HGV industry.”
Fleets involved in the consultation have suggested that the passport could form the basis of a three-tier qualification: tier one would consist of basic driver training; tier two would cover industry sector-specific knowledge, such as tail-lifts or refrigeration; tier three would be tailored to a company’s own culture. It’s likely only the first tier would be portable.
The industry has been keen to develop a qualification for van drivers, which could put them on a par with HGV colleagues.
Ian Leonard, Speedy Hire group fleet services manager, told Fleet News earlier this year: “We’d like to see a recognised, portable qualification for van drivers. This would improve retention and also give drivers a qualification they could use within the industry, saving the sector time and money in re-training them.”
Speaking at the FTA’s Van Excellence conference in April, head of vans Mark Cartwright (pictured) said: “Bump into a truck driver in a pub and they’ll tell you they’re a truck driver within seconds, probably before they tell you who for.
“Ask a van driver the same question and they’ll probably spend the next few hours denying they’re a van driver.
“I guess most of these drivers see themselves as a tradesman first and a van driver second. Yet the driving of their van is probably the riskiest element of their role.”
Cartwright recognises that FTA’s Van Excellence scheme, which has 68 members operating more than 115,000 vans, was created primarily to recognise the efforts of the companies involved and not their individual drivers.
He believes the first step to improved employee engagement is for accredited fleets to start publicising Van Excellence to their workforces to boost pride in the company’s achievements.
Examples of this include internal PR via staff magazines, intranets and poster campaigns. Some fleets include the Van Excellence logo on driver uniforms, both as recognition of involvement in the scheme and as a reminder to drivers that they are ambassadors for the organisation.
A number of accredited operators go a step further by recognising ‘above and beyond’ performance within their driving teams.
“I’m endlessly impressed with the benefits of formally recognising driver performance through driver of the year awards,” said Cartwright.
Cartwright is keen for the FTA to play its own part in driver recognition through the creation of the driver passport.
He expects to make progress on the initiative over the coming months with an update report likely later in the year.