Earning recognition for safety and compliance

The DVSA’s Earned Recognition Scheme, which was launched on 24 April, allows commercial vehicle operators to prove they meet driver and vehicle standards. Gordon Macdonald, the DVSA’s head of enforcement policy, explains how it works

DVSA has been exploring the earned recognition concept since 2014, in response to a very real, very powerful dilemma: how do we focus our resources on tackling operators who put their drivers and other road users at risk?

In 2016/17, for example, our examiners found a significant volume of drivers’ hours offences, meaning that drivers were tired, sleepy and potentially dangerous in one in 20 of the vehicles we stopped. We found mechanical problems – often of a serious nature – in nearly a third and nearly half of all loads were unstable or overweight. Of course DVSA has the power to fine, prosecute and refer to the Traffic Commissioner those offenders.

But how do we change that dynamic? How do we offer not just a stick but a carrot? Importantly, how do we reward operators who strive for the best possible safety standards, not just because they’re required to but because they believe in its importance? So, in developing the scheme we’ve worked with trade associations and exemplar operators.

Benefits for operators

It’s not always been easy – we have tested and refined over a long period to get the standards right – often in the face of cynicism. After all, there are a few similar schemes with similar stated aims.

What makes earned recognition different? Well, earned recognition is a single, national standard and is free to join. But the most obvious difference is the direct benefits for operators. Those benefits include less frequent DVSA roadside checks or site visits, saving operators time and money. Operators can also prove they’re an exemplary operator when they bid for contracts; they can use the DVSA earned recognition marque on their website and other publicity materials and will be recognised as a DVSA‐accredited operator on GOV.UK. DVSA will still stop vehicles if they’re in an obviously dangerous condition. And an operator’s vehicles could also be stopped for the Department for Transport’s national fleet compliance survey, which needs a small sample of randomly checked vehicles.

We successfully launched pilot in April 2017 – and more than 60 operators, operating more than 43,000 vehicles, are now taking part. Participating operators range from those, like John Lewis and BT with thousands of vehicles, to an operator with just one.

How it works

The way earned recognition works is relatively simple. You’ll need to pass an earned recognition compliance audit and you’ll need to have IT systems for vehicle maintenance and drivers’ hours. These will monitor if you’re meeting a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) on drivers hours and maintenance. And we’re looking at ways we can make emissions compliance part of the scheme for earned recognition in the future.

DVSA won’t have direct access to any of your data or systems. But every four weeks, these systems will tell DVSA if you’ve missed any of the KPIs by a
set amount. If this happens, DVSA will work with you to fix the issue. Those taking part might have had different reasons for joining but they also share a common commitment to the highest standards of compliance.

Staples Vegetables was the first haulier to join the pilot, before it even had a name. They told us that earned recognition was an “eye opener” and that it’s made lots of their processes and protocols sharper.

Lucketts was the first bus and coach operator to join the pilot. They found joining the pilot to be easy, as they already measured lots of the standards used for the scheme. For them joining earned recognition was a natural extension of their approach to vehicle safety, which they view as being “paramount” and a “key priority”.

New Image Stone supply, manufacture and install custom‐made natural stone products for high‐end residential and commercial developments. They’re also the smallest operator on the earned recognition scheme with just one vehicle.

Once they found out about earned recognition, joining the scheme was quick and easy. “From the support from the DVSA specialist, to the audit and upgrades to our tachograph system and IT Maintenance process has been a quick and easy process,” said Monica Coe, transport manager at New Image Stone.
They’ve found that being transparent with us about their compliance is mutually beneficial. We get to better target our resources and they cut down on stops during the working day.

The location and nature of their work also makes earned recognition particularly useful for them. Monica continued: “Due to the nature of our work, we are constantly going into central London on commercial sites, so we believe that it will only be a matter of time before our clients decide this scheme is a requirement to win work.”

“It demonstrates to our clients, suppliers and competitors that we’re fully committed to improving our vehicle and driver standards by working closely with DVSA on this scheme. Being recognised as an approved operator and founder member is something we’re proud of.”

Taking compliance seriously

Even at this early stage many of the pilot operators are already seeing the benefits. We’ve heard reports of improved relationships with drivers, better processes and recognition from customers.

The full list of all the vehicle operators taking part in the pilot has been published on GOV.UK, and includes private and public sector organisations.
If you’re an operator and you take compliance and safety seriously, joining the earned recognition scheme is a logical choice. If you want to know more check out our guidance.

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