The haulage industry used to be notorious for its poor record on health and safety. Thankfully, it has come a long way since then.

There is, however, no room for complacency because health and safety standards are getting higher all the time. With that in mind, here is a quick guide to ensuring that your fleet meets new compliance requirements and stays COVID19-safe.

Emma Tyrer of Walker Movements, shares her insights into ensuring your fleet meets new compliance requirements and stays Covid safe.

Low Emission Zones/Clean-Air Zones

London, Birmingham and Bath are now implementing low-emission zones also known as Clean-Air Zones. It’s practically guaranteed that other areas will follow suit, especially cities. The bad news is that each zone operates to its own set of rules. What’s more, these rules can be updated at any time.

The good news is that there does seem to be a fair degree of consistency around the standards. The variations currently seem to be around enforcement and sanctions. Furthermore, to be fair, it’s unlikely that local authorities will make changes to them at short notice (outside of emergencies). If nothing else, they will want to avoid their local (tax-paying) businesses having their supply chains (further) disrupted.

One key point to note, however, is that businesses may need to register their vehicles for these schemes. Essentially, the business will need to provide evidence that their vehicles are compliant and this evidence will (presumably) be checked and recorded. If you fail to do this, you may find yourself sanctioned even if your vehicles are compliant.

The Direct Vision Standard

Currently, the DVS only applies in London. That said, like the LEZ, it’s almost guaranteed to end up being implemented elsewhere. In fact, it’s arguably likely to be implemented a lot more widely since the basic concept is applicable to any congested area. Realistically, that’s not just cities, it’s most of the UK’s towns and even some villages.

The DVS as applied in London is simple in theory. In practice, however, it may require a bit of effort to administer. In simple terms, all HGVs are assigned a star rating depending on how much the driver can directly see from their cab windows. The highest rating is five stars and means that the driver should not need any further assistive technology.

If a vehicle is rated below five stars then it needs to be fitted with “Safe System Improvements”. This basically means assistive technology such as sensors and cameras. The lower the star rating, the more assistive technology the vehicle needs in order to meet the standard.

Companies need to register their vehicles in advance of entering London. Assuming the vehicles meet the necessary standards, they will be issued with a safety permit. Entering Greater London without one of these permits will result in a penalty charge notice even if the vehicle is compliant.

Brexit

Brexit is currently in the odd situation of being both a reality and a work-in-progress. Realistically, it is likely to remain the latter at the very least for the immediate future. It could take years if not decades for everything to be ironed out.

While that is happening, there are multiple health and safety-related considerations for fleet managers to keep in mind.

Possibly the most obvious one is the potential for journeys to Europe to trigger or exacerbate, mental health issues in drivers. It’s been widely publicized that the new rules on exports and imports are leading to widespread confusion and hence delays. While politicians are working on resolving them, it’s anyone’s guess when the situation will improve especially with COVID19 slowing down progress.

Outside of this, companies operating in Europe will need to ensure that they comply with all regulations in force there. The UK will not necessarily harmonize with EU rules now that it is outside the single market. This means that it will be down to each business to keep informed of what is required in each country.

That said, the UK government does tend to provide information or at least links to information for exporters/importers and other companies operating internationally. It’s, therefore, to be hoped that the government supports hauliers needing to keep abreast of rules in the EU.

COVID19 inspections

The Health and Safety Executive recently announced that it would be undertaking spot-checks on businesses to ensure that they were operating within COVID19 guidelines. This is not exclusive to the haulage industry but will include it. Based on the tone of the announcement, these visits are intended to be helpful rather than punitive. That said, employers are still very much expected to cooperate fully.

On a similar note, the health and safety guidelines are essentially the same for all businesses. Each sector and, indeed, each company will, however, need to figure out their own approach to implementing them. Social distancing (and mask-wearing) are unlikely to be a huge challenge for the haulage industry. Maintaining hygiene, by contrast, may be a lot more difficult.

Businesses may have to arrange for portaloos to meet the requirements for toilets and hand-washing facilities for everybody on site. This includes visitors as well as workers (including temporary ones). Likewise, businesses will need to be very careful not just to clean vehicles thoroughly and regularly but to ensure that the process is suitably documented.

On the plus side, the HSE’s activity may prove very helpful to the haulage industry overall. It’s been well-documented that drivers have had issues getting access to facilities while out and about on the road. This has even extended to clients refusing them access to toilets. If the HSE starts handing out sanctions for this. It may quickly motivate a behaviour change.

General health-and-safety

As a reminder, these new compliance requirements are running alongside existing ones, not replacing them. Realistically, the bulk of compliance will stay much the same as it has been for years. In other words, it will involve standard risk assessments and the mitigation of the hazards they raise.

In the haulage industry, the bulk of health and safety challenges relate to drivers on the road. They need to be kept safe themselves and other people need protection from the incidents they may cause. Mitigating these issues is likely to involve a combination of established strategies (e.g. ensuring drivers get sufficient rest) and adopting new driver-assistance technologies.