CPT Transport Manager’s workshop
The latest in a series of CPT organised evening events held around the country to highlight the importance of the Transport Manager role and the huge responsibilities that it carries took place at the Best Western Heath Court Hotel, Newmarket on Monday 25 November. Held under the auspices of CPT’s London & The South East region, over 50 operators representing companies ranging in size from one man concerns to senior representatives of the Big Five turned up to hear three speakers with a great deal of knowledge of the subject. James Backhouse of Backhouse Jones Solicitors has ample experience representing those who have fallen foul of the regulations in front of the Traffic Commissioners, who were in turn represented by East of England Traffic Commissioner, Richard Turfitt, while NovaData’s Robert Thompson has years of training Transport Managers how to pass their CPC exams to his credit.
There has been renewed focus on the role of the Transport Manager in the light of changes to the access to the profession rules under European law enacted in 2009 (1071/2009) that came into force in 2011, although, as James Backhouse, the first of the speakers, pointed out, the underlying responsibilities have changed very little under the new rules, so if you were doing it right then you are probably doing it right now. However, as he James observed, a lot of people weren’t doing it right. Over the past five years he has noticed a considerable increase in the numbers of Transport Managers he is being asked to defend in the traffic courts.
Beginning by looking at the tools required for the job, James referred to the wording in the regulations that sums up the role of the Transport Manager, namely that he or she; ‘must effectively and continuously manage the transport activities on that undertaking.’ It was a hands on role.
He advised Transport Managers, who made up the majority of those in the audience, that if they were down on a licence as the Transport Manager and had in reality moved on as the business had grown to become more involved in sales, that they should think about their position. He warned, from experience, ‘it is difficult to be a senior director and be the Transport Manager,’ advising that if you were in that position it was time to look at how you were doing it. There was nothing wrong with being the Transport Manager and being a Director, it was the norm in smaller businesses and the two were not incompatible, but it depended on your role in the business and whether you exercised effective and continuous management control.
Drawing a responsibility diagram that illustrated the point, he said the Transport Manager had to be someone with enough authority to discipline drivers or to be able to question the effectiveness of a maintenance contractor. Management involved discipline. The Transport Manager was the hub that linked drivers and maintenance with the directors.
In some larger companies or those with separate sites there could be one Transport Manager looking after drivers and another looking after maintenance, or different Transport Managers looking after individual depots. The more vehicles you had, the more depots you had and the more complex your work was, the more likely you were to need more than one Transport Manager.
It was the Transport Manager’s job to ensure compliance with the undertakings given to the Traffic Commissioner when the operator’s Licence was granted. He advised all Transport Managers to ‘photocopy your undertakings, laminate them and stick them up somewhere prominent in your office’ because, ‘all problems will come back to them.’ He reminded the audience that these undertakings were a binding promise upon which the Traffic Commissioner relied when deciding whether or not to grant a licence. That decision had to be based on trust.
Thus far everything sounded very draconian but James did slightly lighten the mood by pointing out that drivers and engineers would inevitably get things wrong from time to time. ‘It is impossible to be perfect,’ he said. ‘Your job is to manage the set up and ensure that if something goes wrong you know about it.’
Having advised everyone to read their undertaking carefully, he went on to say that the devil was in the detail, and the Transport Manager had to ensure that the business and its employees complied with the laws relating to the driving and operation of vehicles used under the licence.
He asked those present how often they checked their driver’s licences to ensure they were up to date and valid. Some said four times a year and some said twice. He regarded twice as a minimum and four times a year as best practice, adding that you should have an independent check done whenever a new driver signed on. James asked whether anyone had ever found that a licence had expired when checking it. Nobody owned up to this, possibly because of the presence in the room of a Traffic Commissioner, but apparently it is not uncommon in his experience, especially if an individual has moved house and the reminder sent fails to reach them.
James was unequivocal in saying, ‘if a driver won’t sign a declaration to say he has a valid licence – don’t let them drive.’ If you had any reasons to be suspicious you should act on them. He warned, ‘you should have your antennae out.’
Other issues he ran through were drivers smoking, the breaking of Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs), aggressive anti-competitive conduct and Health and Safety, all of which had to be managed.
Turning to driver’s hours and tachograph matters, he said that this was a most dangerous area for coach operators that also operated school contracts and service work because the mix of domestic hours rules and EC hours rules was a lethal combination. VOSA knew the strains such business were under in the months of June, July and August and targeted them. He advised there was no better time than now to have another look at your tachograph system and ensure it kept you legal.
It was the responsibility of the Transport Manager to ensure that drivers knew the rules, to ensure that managers knew the rules and also to ensure that work handed out was possible within the rules. The tachograph rules had changed in 2006 but he still came across operators who thought you could do things that were allowed then but aren’t now.
James went on to go through elements relevant to the engineering aspects of a Transport Manager’s responsibilities, pointing out that the most common issue at Public Inquiries was maintenance, asking questions such as, ‘what is your policy on tyre tread depth?’ Throughout this he stressed that the MOT standard was the minimum acceptable and the aim should be for something much higher. Preventative Maintenance Inspections (PMIs) were usually four weeks for buses and six weeks for coaches but if you were getting a lot of issues at each PMI then your PMI interval was too long.
There was discussion on S marked prohibitions because these were bad news for an operator and would attract attention. VOSA would always assume they were evidence of a bigger problem. If as a Transport Manager you saw that a vehicle had attracted one, you should act straight away, before the VOSA follow up it would inevitably attract.
James also looked at driver defect reporting, notification of convictions and many other topics that there is not sufficient room to go into in this report.
Concluding his presentation, he said that, if things go wrong, which they can, a Transport Manager could lose his or her repute, could be placed on a National register which effectively meant that they could not work in the role anywhere in Europe, and could be made to take actions for rehabilitation which the Traffic Commissioner later explained might mean having to re-sit your CPC qualifications. There was a slightly reassuring note in his assertion that, unless you had done something really heinous like massive falsification of records, it was possible to get your repute back in time.
For some reason there is always reticence among operators about asking or even answering questions from the local Traffic Commissioner, it was ever thus, even though Richard Turfitt assured them that, ‘unlike at Public Inquiry, I would welcome interruptions’.
I won’t run through it all because inevitably it covered much of the ground already gone over in James Backhouse’s comprehensive presentation. He reiterated that under the current regulations Transport Managers had to ‘exercise effective and continuous management’, rather than the previous requirement to ‘exercise effective and continuous responsibility’. The role was a question of balance. The Transport Manager had to be close enough to the day to day operation to manage it and at the same time close enough to the owner and board to have power.
He reminded delegates that under Article 4 of EU regulation 1071/2009 that a Transport Manager must be of good repute, be professionally competent, not be disqualified by a Traffic Commissioner and, in the case of an external Transport Manager, must not be designated to act for more than four operators or 50 vehicles or such smaller numbers as a Traffic commissioner sees fit.
He was clear, ‘It is a hard job. It’s a very difficult position we put you in. You are absolutely key.’ A Transport Manager’s repute was crucial, ‘I hold the CPC holder in the very highest regard.’ Richard commented that, ‘if the actions of directors prevent a Transport Manager doing the job effectively, you should first inform the company in writing,’ concluding by saying that if the situation continued, ‘it may even require your resignation.’
He then ran through a variety of topics linked to what the Transport Manager should do and what is expected of him. Despite an inevitably slightly stilted audience reaction the presentation was well received.
Robert drew the double short straw of following the Traffic Commissioner and not getting to make his presentation until well after 9.00, and he rightly judged that most members of the audience had probably taken as much education on the role of the Transport Manager as they could cope with by this stage. In view of this, he delivered his presentation somewhat rapidly and in less detail than he might normally have done, safe in the knowledge that those who wanted to know more could read the print out he had left on their seats.
NovaData runs courses for would be Transport Managers to obtain their CPC qualifications as well as courses for drivers to obtain Driver CPCs. The Management CPC course took eight days including one revision day after which there were two two-hour exams and one 60 question multiple choice paper and one case study. The courses were held four times a year. One, two and three day refresher courses were also available as well as a Transport Administration Course to assist in the protection of your operating licence.
Robert concluded by repeating comments attributed to Senior Traffic Commissioner, Beverly Bell, to the effect that the role of the Transport Manager was widely misunderstood by employers, their subordinates and even some Transport Managers themselves. Referring to the need for Transport Managers to exercise ‘continuous and effective’ management she said that, ‘someone who pops in every so often and drinks coffee while shuffling through tachograph charts is not exercising continuous and effective control. If as a transport manager you are not being taken seriously by your employer then email your directors and express your concerns. If you don’t know what you are doing then again email your employer and ask to go on a suitable course, and if you’re incompetent go and find another job, transport management isn’t for everyone.’
I had hoped to be able to participate in one of the previous events but was prevented by circumstance from attending, so I was glad to finally make it to Newmarket where I was impressed with both the turnout and the content. CPT London & South East’s Regional Manager, Karen Tiley, was responsible for the organisation and though unable to be present herself on the evening for family reasons, CPT was nevertheless well represented by Stephen Smith who acted as moderator, with this year’s CPT President, Malcolm Robson, also in attendance.
To those operators who find CPT membership an expense that is hard for them to justify, or CPT members who belong but don’t participate, I believe that this kind of event shows the value of participation as well as importance of CPT being visible at grass roots level. Nobody who saw the presentations will have gone away without being prompted to do something beneficial for their businesses and quite probably their own careers too, on top of which there are the networking opportunities among fellow operators.