All who work within the transportation industry understand that the sector is ruled by numerous laws, regulations and duties, which govern everything that those sat behind the wheel do in their day-to-day employment.
From permits to PSV operator’s licences, rules to regulations, dictates to duties, the laws and legislation you need to be aware of all share one thing in common: they’re supposed to keep everyone in the vehicle safe.
Yet there is a real issue undermining such lofty aims, and that is the lack of understanding prevalent amongst drivers and the institutions that hire them.
It’s not that there is some underhanded motive behind the potential flouting of the rules that goes hand-in-hand with this problem, but simply that with so much to be aware of, certain responsibilities inevitably end up being overlooked.
That doesn’t mean that those in positions of power can shrug their shoulders and accept these blatant oversights as a natural and forgivable occurrence, but rather that they need to be making a real and productive effort to remedy such failings.
To our mind, the solution is an obvious (though not necessarily easy) one: it lies in thorough and continual training.
Understanding permits: a prime example
Recently, the transport industry has been abuzz with proposed changes to licensing laws within the sector, and this provides us with a prime example of one of the most common shortcomings of drivers and other professionals.
Currently, two essential permits exist for organisations providing transport on a ‘not-for-profit’ basis: one that’s covered by Section 19 of the Transport Act 1985 (this relates to the use of vehicles by educational and other bodies), and one that’s governed by Section 22 (community bus permits).
You will be familiar with the effect when these are granted: they allow you to operate transport services for either hire or reward without having to apply for a more rigorously assessed public service vehicle operator’s licence.
This all sounds simple enough, but plenty of those who end up behind the wheels of these vehicles don’t fully understand the obligations attached to operating them. This is a dangerous problem to recognise, not just for those who use them as a mode of transport, but also for those piloting them.
Why? Because of the potential consequences of ending up on the wrong side of the law. This extends not just to drivers, but to the individual or company that holds the permit, who/which has a responsibility to ensure that they operate within legal bounds, properly maintain their vehicle, and only use appropriately qualified drivers.
Worryingly for those whose livelihoods are tied to the industry, this is a problem that looks set to be compounded by further complications and additions to licensing laws in the near future. This was raised as an issue by the Department of Transport in October, following an inquiry by them into community transport.
Exploring the issue, they voiced concerns pertaining to the future of many not-for-profit community minibus services for vulnerable and potentially isolated individuals, which they believed were under existential threats from proposed changes to the law.
This is where training is essential. Companies need to understand the duties and obligations they are under, for it is not just the theoretical safety of their passengers that is threatened if they don’t, but the real and concrete future of their businesses, and the continuing employment of their drivers and transport staff.
It is not the government and responsible agencies who are stepping up to help address these issues, but rather organisations like 4K Driver Training. Working in tandem with the enterprises affected, these bodies are seeking to offer the education and elucidation that is often so sorely lacking.
Possessed of a real familiarity with the industry, those companies who have turned to such enterprises have frequently sung their praises. It is only here, it seems, that the schooling drivers need to understand their responsibilities is provided to them, to the benefit of those they transport, those they work for, and the individuals themselves.
Rules, regulations and real-world training combined
Training within the transport industry has often been sorely lacking, and the reason for this is not hard to grasp. Those who lack the grassroots experience of working within it imagine that because driving is such an everyday exercise, anyone with a licence can perform such a professional role to the required standard.
Of course, this is not the case at all. Those behind the wheel are held to much more stringent standards than the ordinary driver. This does not just pertain to airy, abstract concepts like legislation and permits, but to the exceptional responsibility of transporting fragile adults and children in a way that supports their health and wellbeing.
This is why training – or the lack of it – on issues such as fatigue must also be addressed within this article. Fatigue is a significant area of concern for any within the professional transport industry. Even the most experienced and expert of drivers have been known to unwittingly fall into its trap, endangering not only their own life but the lives of all on board.
This is responsible for causing thousands of accidents each year on UK roads. Although no exact figure has ever been released with regards to these sleep-related accidents, research has nonetheless suggested that it may be a contributory factor in up to 20% of all road accidents, and up to one-quarter of fatal and serious accidents.
The potential of such crashes to end horribly cannot be overstated. Although one might imagine that such vehicles simply drift, gradually reducing in speed before impact, this is not the case. In fact, such accidents are around 50 percent more likely to result in death or serious injury than high-speed impacts, as drivers who have fallen asleep at the wheel are powerless to brake, swerve or take any avoidant action to reduce the impact.
The saddest thing is that these are accidents which need never happen. Unlike mechanical failures, simple education can help to avoid such scenarios manifesting as a reality, but only where drivers receive proper training.
It is not the responsibility of the person behind the wheel to undertake this, but rather the one who holds the permit, and there is little excuse not to remedy such an oversight on the part of your organisation, with institutions like 4K Driver Training running suitable courses from as little as £80 per day.
The whole aim of enterprises like 4K is to help make the roads safer, by teaching drivers how to avoid such devastatingly costly mistakes. For the sake of such a small expense, organisations can make it so that their employees possess a fundamental understanding of the warning signs of fatigue and other common safety hazards – an understanding that could save thousands of lives each year.
It needn’t stop there. Properly selected, appropriate training programmes can help to teach drivers not only the legalities and duties of their role but also how to react to scenarios where accidents do happen. Teaching everything from emergency aid to fire and evacuation procedures, they can give those who really ought to have such skills the ability to save lives: the lives that they are responsible for from the second their passengers set foot in their vehicle.
As an employer, you can help them in this endeavour. It is organisations like yours that have the funds to secure appropriate training, and the ability to ensure that as many drivers as possible receive it. Those in power must be the ones to seize the initiative; to take the lead and set an example for all who are involved in the transportation industry.
On a less altruistic level, it is also your enterprise that may well feel the rebound should one of your employees flout their responsibilities and cause problems for you and all you employ. The only way to safeguard yourself against such an eventuality is by outfitting your workers with the skills they need to properly bear the burden of their duties.
This was perfectly exemplified by a recent tragedy in Bath, where a newly qualified lorry driver killed four people as a result of pure inexperience. The onus, as it always does, fell not on this individual, but on the owner of the company who employed him, who received a prolonged custodial sentence.
The accident itself was a result of a mechanical fault, yet the owner was imprisoned alongside the mechanic, his crime a failure to observe correct procedure and training: training for the driver to carry out daily defects checks, training for the mechanic in adequate safety inspection and recording, and failure to monitor, record and refresh training.
This need never have happened, and by taking the proper steps, it won’t. The onus for this is on you, but it should not be viewed as any sort of hardship. With courses competitively priced and training only required at sporadic intervals, you have not just a responsibility, but a privilege – the power to make the roads a safer and more pleasant place for all who are reliant upon them.