In challenging times for the industry it is more important then ever to have an efficient and well managed transport arm that delivers on time. However, with strict regulations in place regarding vehicle maintenance and load distribution, as well as driver’s rest and driving hours, a well informed and trained Transport Manager is essential. Daniel Tovey reports from John A Stephens in Nottingham, attending a Licence Protection course run by Prompt Training, on behalf of the Builders Merchants Federation.
The combination of logistics and paperwork is no fun, but organisation and accuracy are essential when running a fleet of HGVs. With so many elements to consider — from negotiating between the requirements of drivers, their vehicles, customers, VOSA and the Traffic Commissioner — maintaining an Operator Licence is no mean feat. Specialising in Operator Licence management, Prompt is the BMF’s vehicle and transport adviser and the organisation delivered the Licence Protection training session that I attended at John A Stephens.
Organised by the BMF, the course brought together merchant staff from around the country with a variety of transport management experience. Some were experienced operators, topping up their existing knowledge base, where as others were just starting out. The course’s relevance to both was one of the first points made by our trainer for the day, John Hurton, who stated: “Legislation changes on a regular basis — remaining compliant is an on-going matter, so keeping up to date is important no matter what experience you may have.”
John, who has 20 years experience in haulage and compliance consultation, is the Managing Director at Prompt. He started the course explaining the basics, going through the correct procedures that need to be put in place to get an Operators Licence, the undertakings an operator should be responsible for and also by giving an overview of Public Inquiries and why they might be called.
He summarised that the course was geared towards helping operators make the right decisions to avoid Public Inquiry and protect them against possible revocation or suspension of their licences. He then stated that whilst the day would by no means make participants experts and provide flawless systems for all businesses involved, it will reveal any gaps in their knowledge and setup that they can then go on to address.
The importance of developing effective and efficient operating systems predominated throughout the day. John explained how in a Public Inquiry the Traffic Commissioner only has to judge that an operator is probably not taking the correct measures to ensure compliance, to suspend, curtail or revoke their licence. He was keen to stress, therefore, that a vital part in developing sufficient systems is the maintenance of a solid audit trail to back them up, emphasising the approach that “if it isn’t written down, it hasn’t happened.”
The main exercise of the day looked at developing these systems. Splitting off into pairs, participants went over operators’ expected undertakings coming up with ideas for measures that could be taken to ensure due diligence. After looking at each requirement the participants brought their ideas together in an open round table discussion. They were encouraged to critique and develop each other’s suggestions, with John asking questions that forced them to consider exactly how they could successfully negotiate the regulations, cover all bases audit-wise and implement effective systems.
Measures discussed in this session included spot checks on drivers to ensure they have their records and are in a safe condition to drive (not intoxicated / over tired), that records are kept for all pre-drive reports and vehicle maintenance and repairs, and ensuring policies are in place to address and record any driver infringements noticed by the operator. They also included regular licence checks for all drivers and ensuring those driving vehicles have, or are receiving, the required programme of periodical CPC training.
This exercise was a great opportunity for the experienced transport managers to share their varying experiences and knowledge of legislation. It also provided those new to Operating Licences with some invaluable first hand information about how to approach their own systems. “Not having a good understanding of legislation leaves merchants wide open to breaching their undertakings”, John would tell me later. “A result of which could lead to Public Inquiry and ultimately the very real risk of losing the Operator’s Licence. Are merchants aware of the latest legislation? Are they up to date with how enforcement agencies are applying those regulations? Can they afford to lose their Operator’s Licence?”
No systems can ever be entirely flawless, but this training encourages operators to develop the way they approach their undertakings, and even how best to prepare should their company be taken to Public Inquiry.
Furthermore, towards the end of the day John reminded participants that the most important part of training for operators and drivers alike is safety. Whilst it is easy for licence protection training to be seen as a way to ensure a company meets regulations and “shows” diligence to comply and cover audit, it is fundamentally also about “being” diligent in taking responsibility for putting the right measures in place to ensure the safety of their drivers and the public.
The BMF offers many other courses that support Transport Managers and the protection of Operating Licences. Its Digital Tachograph and Drivers Hours training uses hands-on, simulated scenarios so participants can fully understand and interpret tachographs and tachograph records. The Vehicle Compliance Course focus on ensuring Operating Licence holders have a full understanding of the vehicle maintenance and health and safety measures required to comply with regulations. It also offers Vehicle Productivity training — which is focused on efficiency; ensuring participants have an understanding of vehicle costs and fleet organization — whilst its TransportFirst service provides expert advisers who furnish subscribers with hands-on assistance to implement recommendations and manage their transport functions.
The BMF is the only body to represent the interests of all wholesale distributors of building materials in the UK and provides a comprehensive selection of training and career development packages for everyone involved in the merchant sector, from school-leavers to national company directors.
For information on the full range courses available from the BMF visit www.bmf.org.uk and click on the Training & Apprenticeships tab.