DVSA chief executive Gareth Llewellyn officially launched the scheme on the first day of the Commercial Vehicle Show on 24 April, at a special event attended by pilot participants, audit and IT systems providers, trade associations and the press.
Subject to an audit process, earned recognition allows truck, bus and coach operators to share key performance indicator (KPI) data on drivers’ hours and vehicle maintenance with the enforcement agency electronically.
In exchange, operators will be far less likely to be stopped for roadside checks or to receive DVSA visits to their premises – the aim being to free up resources to target the serially non-compliant.
Members of the scheme are known as ‘exemplary’ operators and earn the right to use the DVSA earned recognition logo on their websites and other publicity materials. They can also prove their exemplary status when bidding for work, and are listed on the government’s website as DVSA-approved.
More than 60 operators took part in the pilot scheme, running 43,000 vehicles between them, including John Lewis, BT and Arriva London – as well as Staples Vegetables Ltd and H Luckett & Co Ltd, the first haulage and bus firms respectively to sign up to the pilot – who each received a special presentation from DVSA staff at the launch event.
The agency hopes that by the end of the first year of full operation, 10 per cent of the total UK HGV and PSV fleet will have signed up to earned recognition. One of the key objectives of the pilot, says DVSA, has been to ensure that the scheme is suitable for fleets of all sizes; and indeed, the smallest operator on the pilot was running just one vehicle.
In a round-table event with journalists held immediately after the launch, Gareth Llewellyn explained the mechanics behind the process that will prevent earned recognition participants being pulled over by enforcement teams.
The operator compliance risk score (OCRS) system has been amended so that an additional ‘blue’ category is now available alongside the red, amber and green ‘traffic light’ system. A blue status would alert DVSA staff in the field to an operator’s earned recognition status, indicating that they do not need to be stopped.
Should an exemplary operator become the target of a random DVSA check, this will be flagged up via the use of a mobile app used by enforcement teams called Search, which will ensure that the vehicle can go on its way without being delayed by an inspection.
There are limited circumstances in which exemplary operators may still be inspected – for example, if there is a visible safety issue.
“Inevitably, if we see a wheel hanging off, road safety says we have to pull them over – and to be fair, the operators would understand that,” said Llewellyn.
Transport Operator asked DVSA what the potential impact of the scheme on issues such as load security might be – for example, if drivers felt less incentivised to secure loads according to guidelines in the knowledge that they were less likely to be stopped.
“We’ve got load security as part of the audit process,” said Dave Wood, DVSA enforcement policy manager.
“We want to make sure the operators have the systems in place to make sure that loads are secure and the drivers are trained,” he added – and stressed that if a load was identified by enforcement teams on the road as potentially dangerous, the vehicle could still be pulled over.
Concerns raised during the pilot around drivers’ hours data, whereby a relatively minor compliance breach such as leaving a tachograph on the wrong mode overnight would seriously skew an operator’s compliance record, had been addressed, he confirmed – so that such incidents would now only be counted within the least serious category, provided that an audit trail was present to show that nothing more fundamental was amiss.
Gareth Llewellyn emphasised the national scope of the earned recognition scheme.
“I hope, over a period of time, it will mean we’re less likely to see these regional or city-based [vehicle standards] schemes arise… Those are the ones which will cause extra cost to industry…
“I think it will be the ultimate national scheme – whether the [local schemes] continue or disappear, or whether they view membership of earned recognition as [an inroad] into their various schemes, that’s for them to determine.”
He said he could envisage additional aspects of compliance currently covered by local schemes, such as emissions standards, eventually falling within the scope of the national earned recognition system.
Reiterating the necessity of the scheme, he also highlighted the scale of the challenge his organisation faced in pursuit of serious wrongdoers.
“We picked up a vehicle which had a tachograph manipulation device – it was a circuit board that was in the light switch in the light over the driver’s bunk in the back of his cab. It took a long time for our vehicle examiner to find that, but he did.
“Using a separate key fob, that driver could turn off his tachograph, his speed limiter, his ABS and his EBS. So he can drive as long as he likes, and as fast as he likes, with very little braking there. Now, those are the people I need to find, because they are absolutely horrendous in terms of road safety.
“So earned recognition gives us the scope to redeploy more of our resources to go after those [offenders]. Because once you find that manipulation device, it’s not just a matter of prohibiting that vehicle… It’s finding out who manufactured [the device], how often is it used, where is it used – do all vehicles in that fleet have it?
“The investigation process that goes on behind that is quite extensive; and it’s worth our while investing more time in that, and looking at the data from [the earned recognition participants] and saying, ‘actually… we’ll leave you alone.’ Because we’ve got the confidence that [those operators] are doing the right thing.”
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