Business procurement will be at the centre of driving up operating best practice and legislative compliance across the van sector, Zip Water UK fleet manager Graham Short told last week's 'A Van for all Reasons' ACFO seminar.
Graham Short, in charge of 126 vehicles of which 66 are vans at Norfolk-based Zip Water UK and chairman of ACFO’s East Anglia region, told the event tenders were increasingly asking for evidence as to how potential suppliers were meeting light commercial vehicle best practice.
“Legislation governs the HGV sector, but not the van sector,” said Short, who added that evidence of best practice could be shown by accreditation to initiatives such as the FTA’s Van Excellence programme and the national Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS).
Zip Water UK is working towards FORS accreditation and Short said: “FORS seems to be the standard required by many of our customers."
Businesses that are accredited to initiatives such as Van Excellence and FORS want to work with organisations that are similarly accredited.”
It’s a view shared by Ian Vincent, principal consultant and compliance manager at FORS, who told seminar delegates “responsible procurement” was an increasing trend.
“Many companies now expect their supply chain to be able to demonstrate a commitment to sustainable fleet activities. FORS accreditation shows that commitment and is often a contractual requirement,” he said.
“Businesses can be safe and assured that such organisations have been audited to a standard that they can be confident about.”
Both Vincent and Mark Cartwright, head of vans and logistics buyers at Freight Transport Association, called on companies accredited to their respective FORS and Van Excellence initiatives to promote the 'badge of honour' to their supply chain.
Cartwright said: “It is essential to spread the word,” and Vincent added: “Businesses do it because it is the right thing to do.
“There is a lot of misunderstanding and fear about how companies will fare in the audit to meet the FORS standard.
"We look at 32 areas of operation and there is a 78% first-time pass rate so a FORS audit reinforces what fleets are already doing.
"The FORS standard is very achievable and shows a safe, effective and efficient operator.”
Meanwhile, Short highlighted that compliance with van fleet operation best practice was “a minefield” with the myriad of vehicle options available, aftermarket fit-out choices and funding routes before taking account of “a host of legislation”.
He said: “Fleet operators should view compliance as the absolute minimum standard to protect their organisation. Whenever a vehicle takes to the road there are very real risks."