John Hix, FORS Director, explores the unprecedented challenges of 2020 and how the industry got to grips with the impact of COVID-19.
Various lockdowns in place across the UK have highlighted the very real fact that, despite the positive news on vaccines, there is still some way to go before the crisis is over. Despite this somewhat bleak outlook, government statistics do shine a light on the consistency.
There has even been growth of freight transport during this difficult time, with numbers of HGVs on British roads from September onwards consistently up compared to pre-pandemic February 2020 levels. There is little doubt these rises show the importance of freight transport to our economies. They also highlight what our industry has achieved to maintain operations during the pandemic; ensuring supply routes and making sure businesses themselves are sustainable.
Yet, with more trucks on the roads, and many businesses fighting to ensure small profit margins are maintained, it becomes even more important to make sure operational standards, especially in relation to safety and efficiency, remain high.
To help members maintain their accreditation safely, FORS Bronze audits are now conducted via video conferencing.
The FORS Bronze audit looks in detail at a member’s operations to ensure they have the correct procedures and policies in place to meet the requirements of the FORS Standard. This robust process is the first step members take at the entry level FORS Bronze, and one which existing members who wish to maintain FORS Bronze accreditation complete annually to maintain their accreditation.
In pre-COVID circumstances, a qualified FORS auditor was required to attend the operating centre in question to conduct the audit face-to-face. Now, members can choose whether they undertake a remote or face-toface audit, although this arrangement is subject to regular review. The remote audits follow the same format, but with the auditor reviewing evidence by screen sharing or presenting the relevant information via email.
Safe Urban Driving practical sessions
The on-cycle practical module of the FORS Safe Urban Driving training course, a requirement at FORS Silver has also been amended. Pre-COVID, members wishing to progress to FORS Silver, or those renewing FORS Silver accreditation, had to complete the Safe Urban Driving training course, consisting of a theory and practical session meet the work-related road risk (WRRR) professional development requirement.
Now, members will be able to gain or maintain FORS Silver by undertaking the theory element only, as long as the practical on-cycle element is taken by the time their yearly Silver re-approval audit is due in 2022. However, FORS is encouraging drivers, especially new drivers who have never completed the on-cycle training, to undertake the practical element in 2021 providing government guidance and company policies are met.
There is no doubt 2021 will see the longer-term economic impact of the pandemic begin to bite, and more challenging times may be ahead. FORS, however, believes that fleets that are able to evidence exceptionally high safety standards, with the right tools in place to ensure maximum efficiency, will go a long way towards weathering any future storms.