The Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) provides a quality and performance benchmark for van, lorry, minibus, coach and bus operators. Achieving FORS accreditation helps companies demonstrate a commitment to improving their safety, efficiency and environmental impact. With the recent announcement that FORS plans to increase its presence nationwide, we thought it would be helpful to those involved in fleet management to interview Paul Wilkes, Business Services Manager at FORS.
This is the first of two blogs covering the interview. In this part, we ask FORS about future expansion plans, whether it plans to standardise specifications, the latest updates to the standards relating to work related road risk (WRRR) and environmental changes, and the commercial incentives for accreditation. The second part will address how FORS views the latest technology that assists companies with fleet compliance and efficiencies.
Is FORS planning on expanding into different cities? If so, which ones?
We get asked this question a lot and there appears to be a lot of confusion in this area, with many believing that FORS is purely London based due to its TfL origins. FORS is actually a national scheme and we already have 65% membership from outside of London, but are looking to expand the uptake of FORS across the country.
We are currently focusing quite a lot on the North East and have done a lot of work with Newcastle and the North East Freight Partnership. We have also done a fair amount of work around Manchester and Birmingham. We are involved in a number of discussions on city projects and we also provide information to operators, offering workshops in major cities to explain what FORS is and the benefits of accreditation. Many cities are moving to require CLOCS and, so by definition, they will require FORS Silver or above.
Is FORS working towards a uniform vehicle safety specification?
We have standard vehicle requirements within the FORS Standard, which align to London’s Safer Lorry Scheme requirements at Bronze and the CLOCS Standard (for vehicles delivering to construction sites) and Transport for London’s Work Related Road Risk policy at FORS Silver. We are in discussions with manufacturers and leasing companies to ensure that they are aware of what operators require at each level of the Standard. We will shortly be publishing a vehicle guide to ensure that everyone is clear on what the requirements are.
What are the latest WRRR updates to the FORS accreditation?
Our last update focuses on environmental issues in addition to WRRR. There are a number of simple steps that operators can take to reduce their emissions and we have provided tools to allow them to understand the impact of their operation.
For example, we have an online spreadsheet that allows operators to calculate their carbon footprint and we provide toolkits that address the environmental and commercial benefits of issues such as anti-idling and reducing stop/starts. We also offer route optimisation courses that focus on providing the basic foundational knowledge. Companies can make a lot of improvements without using telematics and, without this basic knowledge, they are unlikely to be able to realise the full benefits of telematics systems.
In the FORS Gold accreditation we have also included a requirement for companies to consider a modal shift to using either rail or boat instead. This is a big step change and reflects the current policy shift. For example, in London we are seeing a huge focus on trying to make better use of the waterways and the same is happening in Manchester. With lots of construction projects, road space is at a premium and it is only going to get worse. Companies are not obliged to use rail or boat under FORS Gold, but they must ensure that they consider these alternatives and we will shortly be publishing some toolkits and guidance to help operators to understand the different options available and how to utilise them.
Finally, we are looking into alternative fuelled vehicles. Over the next 6 months we are hoping to pull together all the available information to provide fleets with a thorough overview of the technology that exists, how it may help them, what savings can be made and whether funding is available. (For example, the Plug-In Van scheme has now been extended to trucks and there is up to £20,000 available for vehicles over 3.5 tonnes). For some companies, a complete switch to electric trucks may not be an effective solution just yet. However, there are other ways that can still have a very positive impact on emissions, such as using hybrids or changing some vehicles in the fleet to ultra-low or electric vehicles.
There are also other solutions that we are looking into to offset carbon footprints, where companies invest in infrastructure in another country that can significantly reduce carbon emissions, and which are much more effective than simply planting more trees in a rainforest somewhere. For example, in African countries they use diesel pumps for growing crops in fields which are highly pollutant. However, there is a hand powered electrical pump with a mechanism similar to a stepping machine that requires minimal effort to do the same job. It is relatively cheap but the offsetting effects go much further.
What are the commercial incentives for FORS accreditation?
The main commercial incentive for FORS accreditation is that companies can access high profile or lucrative work contracts that often require FORS accreditation as a means of ensuring quality control.
Another big driver is the training and support that is offered for free to our members. Drivers can access the Safe Urban Driving course for trucks and public service vehicles, where drivers experience a cyclist’s view of the road and are taught how to deal with vulnerable road users. FORS also offers a Driver CPC accredited Staying Legal course for truck drivers to help them understand the operator licence requirements and in particular those that can be affected by driver behaviours. For van drivers we have Van Smart driver training, which has a theory module aimed to help drivers to become safer, more diligent and defensive drivers. This also includes a practical module, which gets drivers in the saddle to improve awareness and provide driving techniques when around vulnerable road users.
Managers have access to a course based on maintaining their 'O’ Licence to provide a refresher course on how to manage a fleet over 3.5 tonnes. We also provide the FORS Practitioner which offers 10 fleet management workshops that cover everything that logistics and health and safety managers need to know when running a commercial fleet in line with the FORS Standard. It isn’t a replacement for the CPC but instead covers all of the requirements in managing work related road risk, safe and efficient fleet management, reducing fuel use and minimising fines and charges.
We also offer a number of basic toolkits, designed to assist the smaller operators who don’t have the resources to meet the standards that larger companies often set. For example, we offer a simple performance management spreadsheet that managers can populate with their fleet performance data to run basic analysis, highlight trends and identify areas for improvement. It does not offer anywhere near the functionality of those you can buy commercially, but it plugs the gap in the market of companies that can’t afford these solutions.
Lastly, members can access offers and discounts from around 90 associate companies who provide products and services that help meet the standards.
Do FORS accredited companies often realise reduced insurance premiums?
We can’t release statistics on this but we do know that insurance companies often recognise the value provided by the annual quality checks of operators and a few companies have seen sizable insurance discounts.
There was a lot of discussion at the Freight in the City Expo on whether a carrot or stick approach works best for operators. What are your views on this?
One of the reasons FORS came into being was that it wasn’t clear what standards operators needed to adhere to. FORS worked with operators and specifiers to create a single set of requirements supported by training to ensure that operators could not just remain legally compliant but also could improve their safety, efficiency and reduce their environmental impact.
The FORS Standard is what we measure all of our members against and they are audited to ensure they remain compliant. Some operators use the Standard to help them raise the performance of their operations. They benefit from being able to demonstrate to their customers that they are meeting an independently verified standard. For some operators this works well, as they want to do what is required to meet a contract. At the same time, there are some operators who want to continue to improve their operations and set the bar for new best practice, and FORS can help them with this.
If you are responsible for fleet management and wish to look into FORS accreditation, you can find out more here: https://www.fors-online.org.uk/cms/.
In the meantime, why not discover more about the importance of an effective fleet compliance strategy that minimises your WRRR, along with the business and legal consequences of non-compliance with our eBook: