Through their role as the highest authority on road transport in Great Britain, traffic commissioners have a uniquely high-level perspective on the industry. They share those views in frank annual reports published in summer. To pull out just one theme, last year they stated: As vehicle engineering becomes more complex, there is an obvious argument for individual contractors to have formal qualifications so that standards can be maintained and a level playing field be retained for all operators

This year’s annual report, released in late July, went even further. It raised concerns that shortages in qualified maintenance staff, as well as spare parts, are starting to occur. Turning to worrying about the safety of new technologies, the text continues: “In our previous report we commented on the advantages of a maintenance qualification to responsible operators. We look to the upcoming consultation on autonomous vehicles, but that will not provide an immediate answer to the challenges facing transport businesses and a high degree of certainty will be required if those business are to invest. The complexity of those vehicles and the change in operations will only add to the demand for highly skilled maintenance staff.”

In any case, the traffic commissioners felt strongly enough about this issue to include it in a new list of strategic objectives for 2023-2025. Among the proposed actions in the category of ‘helping businesses to be compliant’ is: ‘Supporting any development of means by which operators can assess the competence and capability of their service providers, particularly in relation to vehicle maintenance standards.’

Fortunately, there is no need for the industry to develop a scheme from scratch. For almost 20 years, IRTE has offered an independent licence for individual technicians, irtec. Its associated Workshop Accreditation scheme is geared towards entire sites. Both last only a few years – five and three years, respectively – to help licensees keep up with training and safety. Regular renewals also give operators a level of comfort in knowing

that their providers are keeping pace, ensuring the quality does not stagnate and training is planned.

As road transport evolves, these initiatives are proving more important than ever.

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