The need to know information from FTA's Transport Manager Conference

Hayley Tayler
November 14, 2017


Transport managers should aim to download data from tachograph cards on a weekly basis and not wait the 90 days permitted by law, according to traffic commissioner for the North West of England Simon Evans.

Speaking to delegates at an FTA Transport Manager Conference in Knutsford, Cheshire, Evans said downloading and analysing data while any issues were still fresh in the driver’s mind was crucial. “A prudent transport manager will do those downloads, if they can, for a period they will remember,” he said.

“They might have a fair idea of what they were doing seven days ago, but they’re unlikely to have any idea what they were doing 90 days ago – even though that is the law.”


An effective transport manager must also listen to drivers who might be experiencing problems outside of the workplace, and help them to tackle these. Evans said more than 50% of incidents seen in driver conduct hearings were caused by something in a driver’s personal life that “leaks across into their public duties”.

Transport managers must ensure they have a strategy in place to not only monitor drivers’ entitlements are in place as required by law, but to ensure those posing
any potential risk are checked more frequently than others.

“I tend to ask transport managers what their plan is on that front, and usually they state X number of weeks when they do the checks,” he said.

“I’m not sure a good transport manager should be doing that. A prudent transport manager should be checking on some people more than others; where the risk lies, the checks should be greater.”

It is essential to ensure driver vehicle checks, PMIs and defect reports are examined intelligently, Evans added, and not just seen as a filing exercise.

Clean air zones

“Don’t panic” was the advice Iveco UK consultant Peter Symons gave to transport managers when he spoke about the roll-out of Clean Air Zones (CAZ) nationally in 2020.

Euro-6 trucks have been available since 2014 and vans since 2016, so the market already has CAZ-compliant vehicles. However, operators were urged to ensure they plan their fleet replacement cycles now and not leave it to the last minute, causing a surge in orders.

“For us manufacturers, the question has to be ‘can we produce enough Euro-6 vehicles to meet your demand if that demand spikes?’” he asked.

“We need to get a good handle on the scale of demand between now and then.”

Symons said the number of trucks over 6 tonnes operating in the UK stood at 447,000, of which 28% were already at Euro-6 standard. By the end of 2020, forecasts suggest a truck parc of around 450,000 vehicles, of which 61% will be Euro-6 and able to enter CAZs without charge.

“But the bad news is that 39%, by definition, won’t be able to. This equates to 175,000 trucks that won’t be compliant,” said Symons.

While manufacturers are already predicting strong demand for Euro-6 trucks between now and 2020, if every operator was to replace their older trucks straight away, it might pose a challenge. “Because this 175,000 is above and beyond our normal forecast schedule for this period; 175,000 vehicles is 3.5-years production for every manufacturer in total,” he added.

“So plan your replacement cycles now.”

Training for the future

Providing opportunities for UK workers to train to work in the freight and logistics sector is essential to mitigate the effect of Brexit on operators, said FTA head of skills and campaigning Sally Gilson. Approximately 13% of HGV drivers (43,000) and a quarter of all warehouse workers (113,000) were from EU member states.

Gilson said that when taking into account the HGV driver shortfall of 35,000 – “although we are crunching the numbers and this is likely to have risen significantly in the past 12 months” – it is imperative to find ways to attract home-grown talent into the sector.

So far this year, more than a third of transport managers surveyed by the FTA said they planned to take on an apprentice HGV driver now or in the future. 

What not to say to a TC

According to Simon Evans, transport managers should be careful what they say to the TC. “One of the bugbears I have with some transport managers, and it is a red rag to a bull for me so I suggest you don’t say it, is: ‘I am a 24/7 transport manager and I am available on the phone every hour of the day and night.’ This immediately makes me suspicious that you’re not there during the day.

“A transport manager doesn’t do their role in the middle of the night – it’s what you do during the working day that matters. You need to have emergency provisions in the background, but it’s what you do day-to-day that will make or break your licence.”

Digital revolution

Speaking to delegates about the DVSA’s Vehicle Operator Licensing self-service system, which went live on 14 November 2016, Evans said take-up was already at 45%, and increasing. “The more this increases, the quicker the process, the less paperwork we are handling, and the more time we have to deal with those who are non-compliant and speed through the legitimate applications,” said Evans.

Obstructed view

Only 38% of transport managers surveyed by the FTA in its annual Transport Manager Survey were familiar with TfL’s proposed Direct Vision Standard (DVS).

Opinion was split over whether the scheme, which would see HGVs rated according to the amount of direct vision a driver has from the cab, would improve the safety of cyclists and pedestrians.

Just over one third (35%) did not think it would bring benefits, stating reasons such as: there is a limit to how many places a driver can look at once; education for vulnerable road users would do more for road safety; and if larger vehicles were forced out of cities, more 3.5-tonne vans would be used, which may have less visibility and potentially less competent drivers.

However, 40% of transport managers felt the DVS was a positive move, as visibility would be greatly enhanced and drivers would be able to spot more vulnerable road users in their blind spots.

The remaining quarter of respondents remained unsure, with some unfamiliar with DVS, and others stating it was only one aspect of the issue.

Profile of a transport manager

  • More than 77% of transport manager respondents were aged over 45, with only 6% under 35.
  • The average length of time a transport manager spent in the role was
  • 6.4 years, while the average length of their careers to date was 10.2 years.
  • Trunking was the most common type of operation managed by transport managers, followed by multi-drop and urban deliveries.
  • 36% of transport managers received a basic salary of between £40,000 and £49,000, while a further 29% earned between £30,000 and £39,000.

(The FTA received 349 responses to its annual survey this year.)

About the Author


Hayley Tayler

Hayley Tayler has worked across Road Transport Media’s portfolio of publications, including Commercial Motor and Motor Transport, since 2008 in a number of editorial roles from news reporter to urban editor. She now specialises in events and projects content for the business, including the Road Transport Expo and a series of industry research reports.

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