I had an enjoyable day today at a Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) event intended for young Transport Managers. It was aimed at Transport Managers in the legal sense of the word (that is, somebody certified as professionally competent and thus able to run buses, coaches and heavy goods vehicles), and I felt that it would be useful for me to attend seeing as I am currently working towards qualifying as a Transport Manager myself.
After an engaging introduction from the CEO of Reading Buses, Martijn Gilbert, who is the Chair of the CILT's Young Professionals Forum, the day's programme got fully underway. Beverley Bell, Senior Traffic Commissioner for Great Britain, was the keynote speaker, and she gave an excellent presentation on what exactly being a Transport Manager entails. She was keen to stress that it was more than just holding a certificate and signing an application for an operator licence; good transport managers work closely with frontline staff (principally drivers and engineers) to ensure compliance. Their management, auditing and review work is essential for safe and legal operation of large vehicles, but they should also seek to delegate responsibility where feasible, seeking to instil a culture of compliance across the entire organisation.
Beverley was an engaging and at time humorous speaker, in contrast with the no-nonsense approach that she typically employees when facing operators at Public Inquiries, but the message she gave was clear; be compliant, and we can all be friends, but woe betide any operator who seeks to cut corners or flout the law.
Despite his principal business being that of defending the non-compliant, Jonathon Backhouse of Backhouse Jones Solicitors further emphasised this point. He drew upon his wealth of experience to highlight areas where operators and Transport Managers often fall down, citing speeding and vehicle inspections as two areas where improvements could often be made.
Many delegates were surprised to learn that every operator of large vehicles undertook to act against speeding when they applied for their operators licence, and some were also unaware that if a defect found during an inspection had been rectified poorly by an external contractor it was still the operator of the vehicle (and thus the Transport Manager) who was responsible in the event of a roadside check. To guard against the latter issue he recommended sending a newly-inspected vehicle to an alternative inspection centre on a periodic basis, the idea being that any defects highlighted during the second inspection would be indicative of poor quality workmanship during the first.
Paul Wilkes, the Business Services Manager of the Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) continued the theme of high quality maintenance and compliance. Providing voluntary accreditation to operators of fleets of large vehicles, compliance with the various FORS standards (Bronze, Silver and Gold) ensures that operators are performing at the top of their game. The accreditation can also be useful for demonstrating an operator's commitment to compliance to their clients, with certain contracts now specifying a minimum FORS standard as a pre-requisite. The presentation was a useful introduction to a scheme which has only recently been extended to include bus and coach operators, but if it achieves similar improvements in quality as have been seen in the heavy goods vehicle sector then it can only be a good thing.
The day overall was an excellent opportunity to network with other transport managers, and deepen my understanding of the role. I was also pleased to pick up some pointers on how to (and not to) do things from industry experts, which will undoubtedly come in handy in the future.