Driving success 06 November 2013

Welcoming two hundred-plus delegates to the IRTE Conference 2013, SOE chief executive Peter Walsh urged non-members to join up and get involved

"It's great that so many fleet engineers, transport managers, academics, technical specialists from most of the major truck manufacturers and the heads of VOSA [the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency] and the traffic commissioners are happy to come and share their knowledge with us at this annual IRTE event. My thanks to all of them and also to the commercial sponsors, who make this event possible."

So said Peter Walsh, chief executive of SOE – the Society of Operations Engineers, the umbrella organisation for the IRTE (Institute of Road Transport Engineers) – on 11 September, welcoming delegates to the 2013 IRTE Conference. In a packed auditorium at the Heritage Motor Centre, Gaydon, Warwickshire, he continued: "We have a very full agenda ahead of us, covering really important topics for the transport industry, ranging from cost management to safety and compliance. So you're in the right place for a challenging and informative day."

Turning his attention to the host body, he explained that IRTE was formed back in 1944 to assist and accredit technicians and engineers involved primarily with heavy goods vehicles and passenger transport. "In 2000, IRTE merged with IPlantE [the Institution of Plant Engineers] under the SOE, which now covers everything from road transport to manufacturing, building services, power generation, the nuclear industry, oil and gas, renewable energy and engineering surveying," he explained.

For him, it is this sheer breadth of engineering excellence and enterprise that lends SOE its scale and strength. And hence the importance of becoming a member, achieving certification and getting involved as a true engineering professional, he insisted.

"My take on engineers is that they are people who have gone through good, technical education and training," asserted Walsh. "They've got solid industry experience; they're technically qualified; and they're competent at what they do – as assessed by their peers. They're also ethical, so they put the community ahead of profit. And they are champions of the environment and sustainable development.

"Above all, though, they're passionate about engineering and continuing professional development – including developing less experienced engineers than themselves, apprentices, students and recent graduates. We're all learning, so many of our members give up a lot of their time to serve the profession by mentoring others – and they learn, too. They also sit on panels and government committees, contributing to government policy on apprentice training programmes, health and safety, the environment and climate change, etc, in terms of road transport.

"That's why IRTE matters. And the organisation is moving on. We've got a new team at the helm: myself, a qualified operations engineer, lawyer and fellow of SOE; our new president Gerry Fleming, from Belfast City Council; Mick Sweetmore, of Arla, as chair of the IRTE Professional Sector Council of SOE; and Sir Moir Lockhead, former chief executive of FirstBus as our new patron. That's why it's important to get involved now. I urge you to join us in IRTE and revitalise your career and those of others around you."

Brian Tinham

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