Road Haulage Association

Haulage Industry News

Tag Archives: vosa

Getting our points across


It is good to see that our man at the ministry, Stephen Hammond MP, does take our industry seriously; and wants to know about the needs of all road users, including hauliers.

A couple of weeks ago, the RHA’s Director of Policy, Jack Semple, acting chief executive, Nick Payne, and myself met with the Minister a few days after he had been driven round the streets of London by RHA member Peter Eason of ELB Partners.

This gave Mr Hammond the opportunity to see, first-hand, the problems that face LGV drivers every day. One issue that is of keen interest to the Minister is the issue of cyclists, and Peter Eason was not disappointed when they were undertaken by a lady cyclist; no hi-vis jacket, no helmet but with ear phones in place while texting on her mobile phone. How crazy are some road users?

The meeting we had with Mr Hammond was held at the Department for Transport in the late afternoon, which in the end was to be a bonus for us as we did over-stay our allotted time. Of course cycling and entry to construction sites was high on the agenda, and he did remark on his visit to ELB. We also told him that hauliers were finding it more and more difficult in keeping up with what the construction industry required, as different sites required hauliers to fit different equipment. We suggested there should be some common practices put in place by official bodies, rather than the ad hoc process we seem to be up against.

There were several questions asked about DVSA (formerly VOSA). In particular, rooting out seriously non-compliant operators. He thought that the OCRS scoring was doing this but we had to correct him noting that the industry was finding that there are too many inconsistencies, and that DVSA needs to make sure all their staff, sing off the same hymn sheet. We also pushed the case to permit private examiners to conduct DVSA annual vehicle testing – with DSVA staff monitoring and audit the system. This would create more flexible test timings, so enabling our industry to be more productive by getting vehicles back on the roads quicker. The other item aimed at DVSA was the Restricted “O” License. We pointed out that many of these operators do not abide by any of the obligations that we as Standard Operators do, despite using similar sized vehicles and the same roads. We pressed the point that they should also be more accountable; bearing in mind the rest of Europe does not have this inequality in operating standards.

On the matter of Drivers CPC we have again pressed the point of being able to have three and a half hour periodic training courses, stressing the point that drivers do lose their concentration after sitting in a class room for seven hours, and that the shorter sessions would be more interesting and absorbing for them.

One very interesting point made by the Minister was that in early March we will finally find out what is happening in regards to raising the speed limit for HGV’s on single carriageway A-roads to 50mph. He would not be drawn as to which way the decision would go, but hopefully in the next few days, we will, at least, see some reward for the RHA’s hard campaigning on the issue.

Having been given the chance to speak to the Minister, we don’t expect immediate results but if we – along with people like Peter Eason – take the opportunity to get our points of view over to the people that make the decisions, we stand more chance of getting results that enhance and help our Industry. Never give up a chance to speak with people in authority. If people in our Industry continue to chip away, raising the profile of issues that affect us, eventually breakthroughs will happen.

Peter Barber

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What does OCRS mean to you?

With apologies to those who can already answer the question, please bear with me and read on.

The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency – widely known as VOSA – devised a system called Operator Compliance Risk Score (OCRS) some time ago. With the intention of using it to target their limited resources on the operators who are less likely to comply with the various rules and regulations that apply to road haulage, the system has been refined since its introduction and now includes 10 levels in each of two areas: Roadworthiness and Traffic. The 10 levels are split into bands of red, amber and green, so the best rating you can get is Green 00 in either area, and the worst you can get is Red 10.

To further complicate the system, your individual score is based on your performance, such as the test history of your vehicles or the results of roadside checks. Where there are no actual records, the typical standard of other operators, who are similar in size or type, are used. It is important to bear in mind that your score can change without you doing anything, as the score is designed to compare your performance with other operators. So if the average improves, your score goes down – and vice versa. So far so good, but we have to ask if the system is working and how it could be improved.

Clearly, the larger the fleet, the more likely it is that VOSA will have real data on which to base the score and therefore the more accurate the score will be. We have heard from large members with Green 00 scores who say they are not being stopped at VOSA checks – and that is a good thing. Smaller operators, however, are less likely to be checked, having fewer vehicles for testing, and it can therefore take many years before an historic score can be established.

In my view, the system is limited, as it relies on a very small base of information. So why not give operators credit for the actions they take to ensure compliance? Why not allow operators to register their membership of the RHA as a sign that they are trying to operate to high standards? Why not encourage operators to have their systems and procedures audited by RHA, and then record this on their OCRS score as an indicator of their efforts to comply? The concept of VOSA using data and intelligence to target their limited resources on the small but significant number of firms which deliberately seek to cut corners and therefore put lives at risk and compete unfairly is sound. The RHA wants to help VOSA make the system more effective, allowing responsible operators to go about their business without undue interference. There is still a major problem with so-called cowboys, and we need VOSA to concentrate its limited resources on rounding them up.

VOSA Chief Executives’ Meeting

This meeting concentrated on VOSA’s Business Plan for 2011/2012. This is based on four “pillars” – Testing and Inspection, Licensing and Authorisation, Enforcement and Supporting Industry. RHA is pleased to see strong emphasis on VOSA’s three main roles: we are keen to see improvements to the HGV Testing scheme and proper consideration being given to operators’ needs when taking forward the plan to open more Private Testing facilities whilst at the same time closing their Test Stations.

The RHA strongly supports the Operator Licensing system in the UK, believing that it has produced one of the safest haulage industries in the world. A central element of O’ Licensing is the independent Traffic Commissioners (TCs), and, whilst we recognise the need to ensure efficiency and good service from the administrative support that VOSA provides, it is essential that there is ‘clear blue water’ between VOSA and TCs. The plan also includes a reference to a Service Level Agreement with the Traffic Commissioners, which has not yet been signed off and is a cause of some concern because of the potential for a clash of interests within the TCs’ system. The third ‘pillar’- Enforcement – is an absolutely essential part of VOSA’s work, so the emphasis that the Business Plan puts on this area is welcome. The Plan sets out to identify “…drivers, operators…” against whom it may be appropriate to take action for non-compliance, describes how they will do that and what sanctions might result for those who are found to be offending.

The fourth ‘pillar’ – Supporting Industry – includes five work streams, each of which has some significance for the industry. The first is enforcement and this complements the enforcement issues mentioned above by seeking to identify trends in non-compliance in order to produce a plan to educate those most likely to fail to comply. VOSA are looking into some form of accreditation for the many and varied quality assurance systems that are used across the industry, the trade bodies, including RHA are exploring with VOSA how we might promote higher compliance standards in those areas identified as above and a communication plan is being developed to encourage higher compliance standards. Finally, work is being done to ensure that the statistics that are produced by VOSA are relevant and can be used to identify why some operators are less inclined to comply with the vast range of regulation that affect us all.

The meeting concluded with a brief discussion about the potential for a Compliance Forum that would bring together the full range of bodies involved in maintaining and improving standards in the industry. This is in the early stages of development and RHA was asked to come forward with affirm proposal as to how it might work.