The Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) is among the organisations that have adjusted their training provision to help ensure members have been able to continue with programmes during the coronavirus outbreak.
“The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent restrictions on movement imposed by the UK government resulted in a sea-change in business operations across the country, with fleet transport no exception,” said FORS director John Hix (pictured, right).
“Despite some restrictions relaxing in recent weeks, the new working practices which fleet operators put in place to increase protection for staff will remain in place for the long-haul. As many have noted, this is our new normal.”
Professional development was at the heart of the FORS Standard, said John.
“The funded and discounted training offered to our members through FORS Professional provides tangible skills which fleet operators use to embed best practice throughout their workplace to increase safety and efficiency,” he continued.
“As such, we felt it was important to adapt our training quickly to ensure members could safely continue with their professional development journeys.
“Only two weeks after lockdown was announced, we began running FORS Professional manager training as online webinars [including] FORS Professional Practitioner workshops, FORS Professional Car and Van Fleet Management Essentials, FORS Professional HGV and PCV Fleet Management Essentials, and FORS Professional Collision Management.
“The online sessions are proving extremely successful, with more than 1,300 places filled on FORS Professional webinars since they began on 1 April.”
The original classroom-based manager sessions were amended to suit an online format, to encourage participants to interact and ensure learning was fully absorbed, John explained.
“What is more, we are currently developing a secure ‘virtual classroom’ platform which will enable delegates and trainers to see each other and engage in a more classroom-like environment, with an embedded assessment made-up of multiple-choice questions to ensure the learning objectives have been met,” he said.
“There are also secondary benefits to online training; it is easier for our members to fit training sessions into already busy work timetables and is ultimately better for the environment.
“It could be some time before government restrictions are fully lifted, and in the meantime, it is of utmost importance that fleet management teams are still able to access vital operational training, to continue their work with FORS to raise operational standards of safety and efficiency.”
FORS says it plans to continue offering FORS Professional manager courses online until at least December 2021.
Meanwhile, FORS members and training providers can now apply to have an immersive interactive training course FORS Approved, to help members meet the HGV and van driver work related road risk (WRRR) requirement as stipulated in the FORS Standard at Silver level.
The FORS Standard sets out the requirements operators must meet if they wish to become FORS accredited, and is updated every two years to ensure it keeps abreast of industry trends and upcoming legislative changes.
However, the latest iteration of the FORS Standard, Version 6, which was due to be launched in October 2020, has been postponed by at least a year to minimise disruption to FORS members in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Despite the postponement of the next edition of the FORS Standard, work has been ongoing to introduce immersive interactive learning as an additional training option for HGV and van drivers, who must undertake training on road risk and the safety of vulnerable road users at FORS Silver.
Immersive interactive training uses drama-based multimedia, virtual reality or other mixed reality training to help attendees understand the road from different perspectives.
FORS S5 Professional development WRRR requirement currently stipulates that HGV and van drivers must undertake training on road risk and the safety of vulnerable road users every five years, and that this training must include a practical on-cycle element (for example FORS Professional Safe Urban Driving or Van Smart).
As of 1 July 2020, FORS operators are able to meet S5 WRRR requirement by undertaking immersive interactive training that has been approved by FORS either for the initial mandatory five years or for the subsequent five years.
Sonia Hayward, FORS manager, said: “Both practical training and immersive interactive training are an incredibly important part of the learning mix, because they enable a driver to gain first-hand experience as a vulnerable road user.
“Opening up the training criteria for FORS Silver Professional Development to allow immersive interactive training gives our members another option for meeting this important requirement and will certainly help embed this knowledge within their driving workforce.”