Around 18 months ago I wrote an article entitled “Right Van Man” which looked at the role of the workhorse that is the 3.5t truck and how current/future legislation affects its day to day use. Last month I attended a workshop hosted by the National Police Chiefs Council and the FTA. The aim of the workshop was to gather opinion from operators, law enforcement agencies and sector partners with the purpose of gaining a better understanding the day to day issues faced, and how through sharing information, we could create a more secure and safer environment to travel, work and operate within – a big ask in a 6 hour workshop.
Smart Motorways are watching you!
The event was well attended by a cross section of users including delivery companies, utilities organisations, emergency services, construction, security firms and communications companies. All these companies are reliant on the 3.5t truck and its reputation and are suffering the same issues of theft, driver retention, rising insurance costs and traffic congestion. At this point it is worth mentioning that on the issue of theft, be it whole vehicles, catalytic convertors or the contents of the vehicle, there was only one industry group, the delivery industry, who have formed a working group where they share information on incidents and individuals in an effort to reduce the economic drain on their businesses. This got me thinking, we too suffer badly from the same blight, be it the opportunist removal of a strimmer from the back of a truck, the truck itself or the organised theft of a yard full of fencing material. Could there be mileage in having an industry based central communication portal into which these thefts could be reported to a wider audience of end users, suppliers and support services to spread the information, a possible opportunity here for Pro Landscaper??
The image harming light commercial vehicle operators
With the light commercial vehicle the centre of discussion it was inevitable the phrase White Van Man would get ample use, and there were plenty of video clips to show the worst offenders. The one thing that came to the forefront of all discussions was the perception of the van driver and the need to raise the professionalism of this role. Ask any of your staff who drive vans what their job is and I’m sure most of them will say groundsman, arborist, landscaper, machine operator and the like, very few will say driver, yet they will use the vehicle on a daily basis so why not train them to use it safely and legally.
With the imminent change to MOT’s after 4 years it is even more important that we operate and maintain our vehicles to the highest standards. Independent accreditation from bodies such as FORS and the FTA have gone a long way to raising standards and can go some way to lowering insurance premiums. Interestingly the presentation from Highways England was also based on improving vehicle roadworthiness by using the technology in the new generation of Smart Motorways to monitor vehicle breakdowns, overloading and traffic offences and reporting the persistent offenders to the relevant authorities, you have been warned.
So was 6 hours in the company of West Midlands Police worthwhile, definitely, they brought together like minded people to openly discuss the issues affecting their business’s from different perspectives within an air co-operation and sharing experiences. Will anything come of it; I certainly hope so and the enthusiasm on the day seemed to indicate that there is an appetite for change, but it does rely on all of us operating light commercial vehicles to raise our game to make poor vehicle operation socially unacceptable, those operating heavy goods vehicles can do it so why not on a smaller scale.