Here at Keep Me on The Road we have years of experience dealing with the DVSA in cases where operators and drivers have fallen short of the strict requirements and had prosecutions bought against them by the DVSA, finding themselves before the Traffic Commissioner.
The truth is, whilst you do get some extreme cases, in most instances the DVSA have some calling as a result of a small oversight or something that could have easily been avoided had precautions been taken by the operator. We’ve compiled our experience and made a list of some simple things operators need to be aware of to stop themselves falling victim to unwanted proceedings or investigations.
1) Be proactive with vehicle maintenance
A high MOT failure rate will make you an enforcement target for the DVSA, so make sure that your vehicles pass their MOTs by ensuring a thorough inspection and service of your vehicles is carried out ‘pre-MOT’. Think of it as revising for an exam- you wouldn’t wait to fail an exam before you learned the content and MOTs need to be treated the same way. At the end of the day they are a test and you need to make sure that you have done everything you can to make sure you are prepared for them. Also make sure that your drivers are carrying out their daily defect inspection and be strict on auditing this.
It needs to be part of the culture of your organisation that these things are not a just a box ticking exercise and off you go for the day but instead minor maintenance faults are being picked up in the yard thanks to careful vigilance from your drivers rather than at the roadside by the DVLA. Yes, nuts will loosen, things will break en route and normal wear and tear will take its course but it is not the norm to be receiving high levels of roadside prohibitions, and these can be easily avoided with these daily inspections. If your drivers aren’t keen then look at what you can do to get them on board and speed up the process. Perhaps consider investing in an app to make the checks run smoothly and efficiently and give you more control as an operator on the reporting process.
2) React to any warning signs
Check your OCRS score regularly. If there is a change for the worse and you find your position declining then find out why and fix it. If you are in the red or amber the DVSA are much more likely to stop your vehicles for spot checks and you obviously want to be avoiding these as much as possible! If your vehicles are being stopped regularly then again ask the question “why?” and try to fix the issues. It is advisable to include any remedial action and changes in process in your report to the Traffic Commissioner if the stop has resulted in a Prohibition Notice or Fixed Penalty.
3) Stay on top of your downloading
In the digital age we all love to download but operators can be surprisingly lax when it comes to downloading driver cards and vehicle units. Make sure your transport manager is staying on top of this and is not just carrying out the process, but thoroughly inspecting the reports against one another. You may trust your drivers but that won’t stand up in a DVSA investigation and you will need to show that should one of your drivers pull their card you have been doing everything you should to prevent it.
If there are any issues you are much better spotting them yourself and taking appropriate action alongside carrying out an investigation complete with a paper trail to cover your back. Make sure you cross reference the vehicle and driver card data. If you aren’t clear on how to produce reports ask your software provider for some guidance.
4) Stay interested
As an operator it is not sufficient to employ a transport manager and leave them to it. At the end of the day the buck stops with you and it is your responsibility to ensure that you are compliant. Stay interested and involved with the day to day management. Make sure your transport manager is on the ball and that both you, your transport manager and your drivers are up to date with the current regulations and any developments. Spending on training and recruitment could save you thousands in fines down the line! Operator Licence Awareness Training and Transport Manager Refresher Training every few years is well advised to maintain professional competence.
5) Get a second opinion
It never hurts to have someone look over something you’ve done. Even if it is something you do regularly and do well, a second opinion will often pick up on things you have overlooked- even this blog article will have been checked at least 2 times prior to you reading it now! When it is something as important as your business then getting a second opinion from an expert is always beneficial.
Get a transport consultation to conduct an audit of your procedures. They can either help you overhaul your business, sort out your processes and documentation or just organise your systems and offer you that reassurance that you will ultimately be on the right track.
If you follow these steps then you should stay compliant but if you do find yourself subject to a DVSA investigation or referred to the Traffic Commissioner for a preliminary hearing or Public Inquiry then make sure you get in contact with a transport solicitor. Here at Keep Me on The Road we are happy to give you free no obligation advice – call us on 0115 910 6239. If you do wish to instruct us our friendly expert team have many years of combined experience in handling these matters and getting you out of undesirable situations.