Warning! Road to non-compliance ahead

Fleet compliance professional Beverley Bell pens a warning message of the perils of sleepwalking into non-compliance

You know those overhead gantry signs on the motorway – congestion or accident ahead – and by the time you see them it’s too late to avoid them? You skipped that last service station thinking you could make it to the next one for a comfort break and you now wish you hadn’t but it’s too late. The only option is to grin and bear it and hope you don’t get stuck for too long. Maybe time to play Chris Rea’s ‘Road to Hell’ again.

It’s a bit like non-compliance really – we often don’t see it coming and by the time we do it’s too late and we just have to sit it out and hope the road back isn’t too bumpy along the way or that we don’t crash our operator licence. If only we had made better plans, anticipated problems instead of thinking nobody (especially the DVSA or TC) would notice. But of course, they do and before you know it you have your solicitor on speed dial, and you are nervously driving down the road to the Public Inquiry wondering if you will come back with a licence. Time to play ‘Road to Hell’ again on a loop!

What are the causes (not the symptoms) of our non-compliance in the first place? And having identified them, how can we avert them and head them off at the pass? We look at them in our two-day TM CPC refresher courses and delegates are very competitive when identifying them. So here are a few to get you thinking:

  • Lack of knowledge, qualifications and training are always easy to pick. Ignorance of the law and good practice – often caused by the former. Incompetence is always a favourite.
  • Lack of time, money and resource is always up there – “I’m too busy to cross refer the safety inspection records to the driver defect reports to check the drivers are doing an effective walk round check,” I hear you say. “And anyway, I don’t get the PMI records back either until I have paid the invoice or the girl on reception is fed up with me nagging her to death for them.” Put another way, others let you down by not doing what they are contracted to do.
  • Being too nice is not always one that springs to mind, but it’s up there in my top ten. Most people don’t enjoy having to discipline a driver for not doing their job properly and so when they do it’s often worthless as they don’t really mean it: “I’m sorry I have to do this and it won’t be on your record for long but would you mind awfully remembering to put your tacho in when you drive on private hire work – sorry to have to ask but ‘the boss’ has asked me to. Don’t worry about it.” Meaningless and a waste of time!
  • Failing to deal with medical health issues and a person’s ability (or otherwise) is another favourite. Either not asking the right questions in the first place or when there is a problem, putting it off and saying it can be done next week which like tomorrow never comes. On our courses we look at the Glasgow bin lorry crash as a case study and all our delegates always make a note to get our up-to-date medical questionnaires and policies, but much more importantly go on to train their staff on physical and mental health awareness.

So, what’s my favourite and how many causes and warning signs do our delegates usually find? I think the most we managed was 28. My favourite is complacency: “We’ve always done it like that luv and we haven’t killed anyone or had a serious accident yet. We don’t want any new fangled fancy ways here luv, thanks but no thanks.”

“Maybe you have read this article and felt a bit uncomfortable and thought how some of it might apply to you or one of your staff?”

Maybe you have read this article and felt a bit uncomfortable and thought how some of it might apply to you or one of your staff? If so, then my job is done. 95% of operators don’t get up in the morning to go to work with the express intention of showing contempt to the system. They want to do their best, they want their families to be proud of them – and so they should.

So next time you read about some operator who did traverse the ‘road to hell’, don’t automatically think they were rogues. Stop for a minute and think they are probably just like you – but unlike you they didn’t see the warning signs ahead and so didn’t take a different route to avoid the trouble that lies ahead. So, what’s your plan on how to do this?

Now when did you last attend a refresher course?

  • This article originally appeared in the 17 November 2023 issue of B&CB. Read that issue here.

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