Adapting to Meet the Challenges 0f 2021

2020 has brought unprecedented challenges for road transport, as our industry got to grips with the impact of Covid-19. Various second-wave lockdowns in place across the UK and Ireland have highlighted the very real fact that, despite the positive news on vaccines, there is still some way to go before the crisis is over.

Despite this somewhat bleak outlook, UK and Irish government statistics do shine a light onthe consistency and even growth of freight transport during this difficult time. A Transport Bulletin from the Republic of Ireland’s Central Statistics Office published in November shows the volume of HGVs on Irish roads has increased in the last five months compared to the same period in 2019. UK Government statistics paint a similar picture, with numbers of HGVs on GB roads from September onwards consistently up compared to pre-pandemic February 2020 levels.

There is little doubt these rises show the importance of freight transport to our economies. They also highlight what our industry has achieved to maintain operations during the pandemic; ensuring supply routes and making sure businesses themselves are sustainable.

Yet, with more trucks and vans on the roads, and many businesses fighting to ensure
small profit margins are maintained, it becomes even more important to make sure operational standards, especially in relation to safety and efficiency, remain high. FORS
as always continues to adapt its offering to meet the changing needs of the sector.

Remote Auditing

To help members maintain their accreditation safely, FORS Bronze audits are now conducted via video conferencing.

The FORS Bronze audit looks in detail at a member’s operations to ensure they have the correct procedures and policies in place to meet the requirements of the FORS Standard. This robust process is the first step members take at the entry level FORS Bronze, and one which existing members who wish to maintain FORS Bronze accreditation complete annually to maintain their accreditation.

In pre-Covid circumstances a qualified FORS auditor was required to attend the operating centre in question to conduct the audit face-to-face. Now, all audits will be conducted remotely until 31 January 2021, after which time members will be able to choose whether they undertake a remote or face-to-face audit, although this arrangement is subject to regular review.

The remote Bronze audit will last around the same time as an on-site audit and will follow the same format, with the auditor reviewing evidence that the member can meet all the requirements of the FORS Standard, either by sharing a screen or by presenting the relevant information to the camera during the audit video call.

Safe Urban Driving

Other changes, which FORS initially put in place to maintain member safety at the start of the pandemic, have also been extended.

Under pre-Covid ‘normal’ circumstances members wishing to progress to FORS Silver,
or those renewing FORS Silver accreditation, must meet the work-related road risk (WRRR) professional development requirement by completing the Safe Urban Driving or Van Smart (for light commercial vehicles) training course, which includes a practical on-cycle module.

Now, members are still able to meet this requirement and gain or maintain accreditation by undertaking the theory element of this course, as long as the practical on-cycle element is undertaken by the time their yearly Silver re-approval audit is due in 2022.However, FORS is encouraging drivers to undertake the practical element in 2021 providing government guidance and company policies can be met. In particular, new drivers who have never completed the on-cycle element are encouraged to undertake the on-cycle training as soon as possible.

There is no doubt 2021 will see the longer-term economic impact of the pandemic begin to bite, and more challenging times may be ahead. FORS however believes that fleets that are able to evidence exceptionally high safety standards, with the right tools in place to ensure maximum efficiency, will go a long way towards weathering any future storms.