1) Turn up
This may seem an obvious one, but an External Transport Manager is expected to turn up at the operating centre and have oversight of vehicles, drivers, and transport records. In this age of working from home it can be easy to slip into the habit of thinking you can fulfil your statutory responsibilities entirely remotely.
An External Transport Manager who only turns up on site once every few weeks will have an uphill struggle trying to persuade the DVSA or Traffic Commissioner that they have been exercising continuous and effective control.
2) Driver defect apps alone are not enough
There are a whole host of driver defects reporting apps online. A great many of them are very good. Some of them have built in GPS and even require drivers to take photographs as they go around the vehicle. This alone however is not enough.
In-person random gate check audits are a crucial part of an effective monitoring regime. I have been involved in several Public Inquiries in which unroadworthy vehicles have been taken on the road despite defect checks being carried out diligently and driver defect apps being used.
In short, if you are not carrying out regular and random gate-check audits you cannot be certain that meaningful checks are being conducted.
3) Understand how to read brake tests reports
Inadequate brake testing has been one of the most prevailing themes of Public Inquiries over the last few years. In my experience it is rare for a Public Inquiry to enquire into an operator’s brake testing arrangements.
As a minimum, every safety inspection must assess the braking performance of the vehicle or trailer. Best practice is for this to be in the form of a laden roller brake test. A print-out of the brake test should be provided and you should always check through these. Things to look out for include:
- whether there has been an insufficient load on any axle
- are the brake performance readings below the necessary pass figure?
- was the vehicle tested when laden to at least 65% of its gross vehicle weight?
- are there any imbalances recorded on any of the axles?
When in doubt always check the DVSA Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness.
4) Always investigate MOT failures and roadside prohibitions
MOT failures and roadside prohibitions do not just happen. Every incident of this kind needs to be thoroughly investigated and recorded.
These days the DVSA are very keen on remote desk-based assessments. One of the questions in the assessment specifically asks for evidence of MOT and prohibition investigations.
Investigations must be comprehensive, refer to any evidence taken into account, and set out the lessons learnt and follow up action taken.
5) Be ready to walk away
I have been involved in several disturbing cases in which an External Transport Manager has agreed to be nominated on a licence, completed a TM1 Form and provided their CPC certificate. Following their nomination on the licence they have found that their operator has not been willing to engage or cooperate. In the worst cases External Transport Managers have even been lied to and misled by an operator, claiming that they have not yet started running vehicles when in fact that is exactly what they are doing.
When something goes wrong as it usually does in these circumstances, the External Transport Manager will find themselves before the Traffic Commissioner with a lot of explaining to do. If something does not seem right or if an operator is not giving you the cooperation and the assistance you need to do your job, then your only option is to resign from the licence to protect your good repute.
6) Regular Transport Manager Refresher courses
Two-day Transport Manager Refresher Courses. Every two years. Put it in the diary.
7) Drivers’ hours tachograph analysis: think outside the box
We all know that driver cards and vehicle units should be downloaded regularly and analysed for infringements. Make sure your analysis includes the following:
- Unaccounted distance reports (aka missing mileage). This is vehicles being driven without a card inserted.
- Lead in time reports: Drivers should be spending a least 10-15 minutes on their walk around checks not 2-3.
- Driver Card Number Checks: Whilst it is rare, there have been several incidents in which a driver falsely reports a driver card as lost and obtains a replacement one, only to keep and use both. This allows them to conceal the fact that they are exceeding their drivers’ hours. This can be difficult to pick up unless you are checking driver card numbers on tachograph reports.
Finally, if you are regularly finding infringements, make sure you do something about it. This should be either in the form of further training or a formal disciplinary procedure. Simply getting drivers to sign month after month for the same infringements is likely to be looked upon as a box ticking exercise, rather than a genuine effort to reduce infringements.
There are a whole range of reasons an External Transport Manager can find themselves at either a Preliminary Hearing or a Public Inquiry with the Traffic Commissioner. At Rotheras we are one of few firms who specialise in this niche area of regulatory law. We can represent you and/or your operator at Public Inquires and Preliminary Hearings and also Senior Team Leader Meetings.
We also help companies and External Transport Managers respond to DVSA investigations, desk-based assessments, TEVR and MIVR audits, and interviews under caution.
Our transport solicitors represent operators and External Transport Managers at Traffic Commissioner hearings nationwide, including at: