Drive safely04 October 2022

licence heavy goods or passenger vehicles

Transport managers are personally responsible for making sure operators follow the obligations of their licence. Although not an easy role by any means, it can be a very satisfying one, as three IRTE fleet engineer of the year awardees tell Will Dalrymple

A legal condition of the government licence to operate heavy goods or passenger vehicles over 3.5t (and, from last month, of vehicles over 2.5t travelling to Europe for hire and reward) is to nominate a transport manager. Responsibilities include ensuring the vehicles’ roadworthiness, proper loading, legal pricing and that drivers adhere to the working time directive (drivers’ hours); see TMs, who are required to take a formal examination (certificate of professional competence) are personally responsible for meeting these standards.

“At whatever level in the organisation, TMs have a huge level of responsibility. It’s a role which has got to be taken seriously. It’s a pivotal role. When you are named on the licence, you ultimately are involved in the success of the business and the compliance of the business is partly resting on your shoulders. You are tasked with maintaining that, with the company’s O licence undertakings,” observes Steve Moir, who has held several TM roles, but is now national operations manager of Direct Tyre Management.

“It is a position of significant responsibility. Does every TM get the kudos and responsibility that they deserve? Probably they don’t. But good TMs are worth their weight in gold.

“They will be effective time managers, superb negotiators, fantastic at dealing with a variety of individuals in various circumstances; good listeners and fairly strict in their management style. If you have all of that and are good at what you do, you will have a huge positive impact on the business,” he adds.

So a big part of the role involves people management. That aspect is perhaps the most difficult part of the TM role, reflects Allan Eyre, head of fleet and engineering at Greenergy. He offers an example: “If a driver is constantly having infringement with regards to driving hours and WTD rules, you need to have good practices in place to support him or her with training. You also need to have robust policies and procedures in place, to feel strong enough and respected enough in function to challenge the driver, to ensure any correct action used has a balanced approach to ensure improvements are made. The messaging is that, as a TM, we will offer as much support as required to ensure the drivers fully understand their responsibilities. Ultimately it is down to individual drivers’ abilities to stick to the rules.”

He adds that people around the TM also need to understand the role that they play regarding the 11 undertakings, and need training from new starter induction. Eyre adds: “TMs need to keep abreast of regulatory compliance changes. This must cascade down to your teams, ensuring any changes are implemented in a proactive way.”

This kind of communication might be both formal and informal, points out Eddie Cross, now managing director of consultancy ProSolution Management Services. Recalling his time as transport manager at the London Borough of Redbridge, he says: “I spent an awful lot of time with drivers. A lot you could do casually. You were in when the drivers came in, and had coffee with them; I made sure that I was accessible, that I had an open office door. All day I was talking with people as I walked around the depot.”


That’s just the drivers. There is also a duty to ensure vehicle roadworthiness. Moir and Cross said that in their experience, transport managers tended to work more closely with people than vehicles, which might be under the responsibility of a fleet manager.

Moir states: “The trucks are as important as the drivers and legal compliance. That’s what the training reflects; the modules all lead to one qualification. But I think businesses have realised that probably it’s not sustainable for one person to shoulder the burden of both roles. The current split between TM and fleet manager helps smooth running as much as possible.”

Be that as it may, Eyre emphasises the importance of having an independent view, and not taking anyone’s word for it, even if it is a trusted fleet manager or workshop manager. At those operators with vehicle maintenance units, “you have to ensure that you take the time to go visit the VMU and do spot audits. Not to distrust the manager, but to make sure you as a TM feel confident that you are effective managing the function in line with your O licence undertakings.” And for third-party repairers, he advises: “You must make sure that you have regular meetings with them to discuss positive and negative areas around maintenance, costs, MOT pass rates and the OCRS implications. What is most important is to take the time out to audit them, that their standards meet your standards, the policies and practices have been implemented, and the workshop can show you evidence these are in place.”

To put it another way, Eyre’s advice for new transport managers is to “make sure that they take the time to observe and go-look-see. It’s not a by-the-manual process. You can’t read the book; a hands-on approach works best. You can get overwhelmed quickly, and then it’s very difficult. You truly can make a massive difference in your role. But you have to ensure that you take your time, don’t rush, and enjoy seeing the positive impact you make on a daily basis.”

Moir suggests that new recruits try out a transport administration role before taking the CPC, to make sure the industry and the environment is for them; TMs in logistics operators particularly can be exposed to the pressures of delivery targets and the risk of financial penalties for lateness.


He goes on to point out that it is possible for an operator’s power structures or corporate culture to undermine the effective function of a TM. He says: “There’s a huge difference in influence that TMs have over other areas of the business and whether or not they are truly in control and able to manage that undertaking, because they are probably not in a senior management role, and they might find it difficult to impose their requirements of their role on a fleet director who would sit in a more senior position in the organisation.”

So all three point to the importance of having the company’s support as well as the ear of senior management.

In situations where there might be a temptation to bend the rules, Cross observes: “You have to be recognised as a professional, and have enough status in the company to say, on occasion: ‘No, you can’t.’” At the same time, he also says that TMs should also have a positive, can-do attitude. “The TM role is keeping the company compliant, but the company needs vehicles for operation.”


Allan Eyre points out that being a TM can mean reacting to events as they unfold. He offers a recent real-life example from Greenergy-Flexigrid, which, as a fuel haulier, has been affected by environmental protests. “You need to have a clear strategy and a plan to respond as best as you can, and balance this against welfare and compliance. Drivers must be safe while protesters are acting. If they are jumping over the vehicles, the first action is to ensure the safety of everyone involved – driver, protester and anyone else in the vicinity such as a terminal operative – then isolate the vehicles until they are inspected and given the all-clear as roadworthy. We have a duty of care to our work colleagues and the public that our vehicles are always in a roadworthy condition; this is uncompromisable.”

Will Dalrymple

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