The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has been asked to leave the Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) after it launched a rival accreditation initiative.
The argument followed an announcement by the FTA that its initiatives met Transport For London (TfL) work-related road safety clauses once additional audit items were included. As a result, they were equivalent to FORS Bronze accreditation, according to the FTA.
However, FORS concession director John Hix said the FTA’s Van and Truck Excellence schemes “fall well below the best practice standards required in today’s safety-driven supply chains”.
“To meet, even just in part, TfL’s compliance criteria, 10 or more additional requirements must be added to the FTA audit,” said Hix.
He claimed they included: driver licence checks, driver eyesight checks, working at height rules, routing and scheduling requirements and responsibilities and accountabilities.
“We fail to see how this can be seen as ‘excellence’ when both the FTA’s Van and Truck Excellence programmes fall way short of not just FORS Silver, but FORS Bronze,” said Hix.
However, James Hookham, FTA deputy chief executive, said: “I don’t understand FORS’ reaction particularly in its view that of ‘falling short’ because we make it clear, as importantly do TfL, that with the additional audit items requirements are met.
“I’m not picking a fight with FORS. We are delivering a service to our members which they have asked for from their trade association.”
FORS, which was established by TfL, but is now managed by the three members of the FORS Community Partnership – AECOM, The Chartered Institute for Logistics Transport (CILT) and Fleet Source – said the FTA was “making life more complex” for van and truck operators and suggested it should be championing “a single national standard” instead.
However, Hookham said: “There has been a single national standard for almost 50 years – it is called the ‘Operator Licence’. We created Van Excellence and mapped across the principal elements of the ‘O’ Licence.”
The argument has led to the FTA being asked to give up its membership of FORS and not to attend future meetings of the scheme’s Governance and Standards Advisory Group (GSAG), which includes organisations such as the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, the Road Haulage Association and Highways England as well as fleets such as Skanska, TNT and Travis Perkins.
Hookham said: “We are very disappointed. While there may be competing commercial interests, we would have thought that the group would have wanted the input of one of the largest trade associations in the country and our 15,500 members.”
Hix told Commercial Fleet: “Members of GSAG have signed a terms of reference document, which included a commitment to promote FORS and not to develop a competing scheme.”
He said there had been “certain dialogue” involving FORS, the FTA and other stakeholders with a view to establishing a single accreditation scheme.
However, he added: “FORS is and has been the best and most straightforward route to achieving a standard as set out by so many contract specifiers.”
FORS was established in 2008 and has expanded into a nationwide voluntary accreditation scheme with more than 3,800 members.
The FTA launched the Van Excellence scheme in 2010. There are currently 108 Van Excellence-accredited companies and more than 120 fleets awaiting accreditation.
Both FORS and Van Excellence shared an equivalence of audit, under which an operator recognised by one scheme would comply with the other. But during 2015, as FORS continued to evolve, the standard changed and no longer recognised Van Excellence as equivalent.
At April’s CV Show, the FTA launched Truck Excellence. It focuses on the operation and management of large goods vehicles as opposed to vans.
Hookham said: “As Truck Excellence is rooted in ‘O’ Licence requirements, there are quite a lot of issues that it covers that FORS does not.”
He said these included: Notification of conviction by the Traffic Commissioners, downloading of tachograph information, board level changes in member companies and first-use inspection of new vehicles. The first six applicants are currently going through audit.
He concluded: “I think operators are more comfortable working with their trade association than a private consortium.”