Women in Transport Podcast

A podcast aiming to help increase the representation of women in the transport sector

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Thursday Mar 30, 2023

Welcome to the Driving for Better Business podcast celebrating women working in transport, fleet management, and road safety.  I’m delighted to have Nina Day, Policy Advisor for the Health and Safety Executive with me today. Nina, welcome to the Driving for Better Business podcast. It’s great to have you on the call today.
Nina: It’s great to be here.
Anne-Marie: The Health and Safety Executive plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety of those in the workplace and your area of expertise is in road and workplace transport. What was your career route into this particular area?
Nina: You know, after nearly 23 years now I can still picture the job advert that got me applying to work for HSE. And I didn’t really know anything about HSE back then and I certainly wouldn’t have imagined my career developing the way that it has – but very much in a good way, I should say. When I first started in HSE I was carrying out incident investigations, so that was fatal and serious injury incidents in quite a wide-ranging number of sectors – manufacturing, construction, agriculture, offshore. I’d worked on a couple of incidents in the transport sector, but it wasn’t really something that was on my radar. And after about 6 years, I decided I wanted to get more involved in the research side of things. I asked for a project that I could work on, and I did have my eye on something else – and I remember being quite disappointed when I was given a project on HGV travellers instead, I think I was probably quite annoyed at the time! But I gritted my teeth and thought I’ll get through this, and then I’ll never think about an HGV again.
And clearly, it didn’t work out like that. I think within about 2 weeks of starting that project I was just fascinated by the industry in general. And I still am. It’s such a critical industry sector for the country as a whole, and there are some absolutely incredible people working in it. A lot of technical innovation, a constant drive to do things better, and it’s just great to work with. So, it’s an industry that I’ve been very, very happy to work in for many years now. I moved into policy within HSE about 4 years ago, and that was a big change, but an exciting one. One of the best parts of my job is getting to work with HSE’s external partners, whether that’s industry groups or partners within government like DfT, the police, with National Highways… and I think having a non-policy background is actually quite helpful to me in some ways, because it’s a different perspective. And having that technical, scientific background can be really useful when it comes to talking about something like load security, which can be quite a complex topic.
So, my career path to this point probably has been a little bit unusual, but I wouldn’t change anything about it.
Anne-Marie: Fantastic – and you’re quite right. Sometimes, looking at transport, it doesn’t seem like it’s a very interesting area or particularly wide-ranging. But actually, when you get into it, there is so much there. And you mentioned partnership – how important is partnership in getting things right in the workplace, or the driving for work area?
Nina: I think it is absolutely critical. I mean, certainly from HSE’s perspective, we are talking about an area where you have overlapping areas of legislation, because you have workplace safety, road safety… you have different regulators working in that same space. And it’s absolutely critical that we have an ongoing dialogue between us; that we work together closely. The engagement is also really important in terms of talking to industry and making sure it’s a constant two-way discussion about how things can work, how they can work better. It is one of the great things about the industry, working in transport, is that you have so many parties involved. It’s exciting. It’s fun.
Anne-Marie: Yeah. You’ve already mentioned some of the things you’ve been involved in, and load security is actually quite important – we don’t think of it so much and we’ve all seen things bouncing off of flat-bed trucks and stuff, because they haven’t been tied down particularly well. It’s important to understand how loads behave in on a moving vehicle, and it’s not just about driving with loads but also but also the process around loading them safely.  What are the most common causes and the most common vehicles involved in incidents with unsafe loads?
Nina: You’re absolutely right, load security is a really important issue. And it’s an issue that affects everybody. I think people often think “Oh, it’s only HGVs that we have to worry about”, but not at all. You can have issues in cars, in vans… it’s really important if you’re transporting goods on the road – whatever the vehicle, whatever the length of journey – are you managing that properly? Have you got a system in place to make sure that that load gets from A to B safely? I think it can seem very complicated to people sometimes – “Oh, there’s lots that I need to do”, but actually a couple of years ago I went back and looked at all the load shift incidents that I’d been involved and investigating over the years, and I made a shortlist of the causative factors. And it was very short. There is a very limited number of reasons why loads move.
The good thing there, I think, is that they were very simple and straightforward reasons, so they could be quite easily fixed. Things like the load was unstable on the load bed when it was loaded – and it shouldn’t have been, it should have been stable. You can never make an unstable load safe. The load wasn’t secured properly, or at all in some cases, and it shifted during the journey – that could have been fixed by tying the load down. So, the most common causes of fatal and serious incidents that we see in transport generally – aside from load shift – are being struck by a moving vehicle, being struck by a moving or falling object, falling from a height, or slips, trips and falls on level ground. And you get those with load shift. Those are the key reasons why people have incidents.
I think sometimes people assume that a load shift incident is just when something falls off the vehicle on the road, or falls out of the vehicle during unloading. But there are other types of incident as well. For example, a driver might climb up onto the load bed to deal with a load that has shifted during the journey, and then they fall off – that is quite a common type of incident. In a van, the driver or someone else might not realise how important the bulkhead between the driver and the cargo area is – it’s there to protect the driver in case the load moves forward. And it needs to be in reasonable condition, and the load behind it needs to be secured. I’ve seen vans where the bulkhead has been removed or it’s had sections cut out of it, or it’s been damaged and not repaired. And it can’t do the job it was designed to do – to protect the driver.
So again, that’s another type of incident. One type of incident that I’ve seen quite a few times recently is items falling off the forks of a forklift truck, or something has been pushed across the load bed by the forklift during loading and unloading. And it’s fallen and struck somebody – the driver or another worker. Now, these things do happen. During loading and unloading, things do happen, and things do fall. But the key thing here is making sure there’s no one in that area, so if it falls you’ve just got product clean-up. It’s not going to be any more serious than that. If the driver doesn’t need to be there, if the driver isn’t supervising it and doesn’t need to be directly next to the vehicle, put them somewhere else. Give them somewhere safe to wait so that they’re not in the firing line.
I think a really important point I want to make here is – I hear this a lot from people, they say “I’ve never had an incident, I’ve been working in this job for a long time, I’ve never had a problem” … I think back to my experience earlier on in my career investigating incidents across a lot of industry sectors. No one sets out to have an incident. No one gets up in the morning and thinks “Today, everything’s going to go wrong. That’s what I want to do with my day.”. And something can be unsafe for a very long time without a catastrophic event, until the day when it does go wrong. And it is such a common mistake that people make, they assume that because they’ve done this for a long time it will always be safe. And unfortunately it doesn’t always work out like that.
Anne-Marie: Yeah. And I think safety isn’t down to luck. Safety is down to people taking ownership and responsibility of what they need to do. Safety is never just luck. Those are really important things to focus on there.
Nina: Absolutely. And you can – I don’t like to use the phrase ‘get away with it’ – but it is, it’s luck, it’s gambling every day that things will be okay, but unfortunately luck can run out and it is, I think, quite difficult when you’re investigating an incident and you can see multiple points at which that could have been prevented. We can’t forget the fact that the end result of these serious incidents is that a family has been bereaved. A worker has been left with very serious injuries that may affect them for the rest of their life. And that could have been prevented. It is a difficult topic and I think it can be very hard for the operators, for other workers in those businesses, when there is something that could have been done and unfortunately it wasn’t at that point.
Anne-Marie: Yeah. It’s interesting. We’re going to move on to talk a bit about dangerous goods and abnormal loads. The approach should be exactly the same for anything we’re doing with transport. Dangerous goods are an interesting one.
Firstly, what qualifies as ‘dangerous goods’, and secondly, are there any special precautions that need to be taken when transporting hazardous goods?
Nina: You’ve got an incredible range of substances that qualify as dangerous goods. I think it is really important that people understand what they’re carrying. I go out quite often with the police and DVSA and I’ve seen people be tripped up because they didn’t necessarily realise what was in the back and didn’t realise that it came under particular rules because of the type of load. So it is important to understand what you are transporting. The same general rules about load security apply to dangerous goods as much as they do to anything else. But it is understanding the characteristics of that load type. So for example, if you’re transporting chemicals in an IBC and you’re using ratchet straps to tie that load down, you will need two ratchet straps over your IBC instead of one. So that’s something very specific to carrying an IBC.
You need to make sure that your packaging, the way that you’ve loaded that load into the vehicle, is sufficient to protect it from harm. So for example, if you’re carrying a pressurised cylinder, you need to make sure that you protect the valve from damage – because if it does get damaged, potentially you have a missile on the load bed.
So, it is quite interesting when I do go out with the police or DVSA – quite often, the issues aren’t with operators who are transporting under the ADR rules all the time. It’s with people who are carrying dangerous goods, either under limited quantities or it falls outside ADR completely. So gas cylinders – very, very common – a lot of people are carrying gas cylinders in their vehicles. And they’re not always secured very well. It’s quite alarming really, because as I said, if the valve gets damaged, potentially you have a missile on the back of your vehicle. It’s not something that you want to sit in front of.
So it’s really, really important in any transport operation to plan, and to make sure you’ve got a system in place to do it safely. But if you are transporting dangerous goods, you need to be really sure that that is going to be in a safe condition all the way through to delivery.
Anne-Marie: Yeah, and that leads us on to talking about abnormal loads. Not quite the same as dangerous goods in the same sense but the potential for harm when carrying abnormal loads. We’re seeing some emerging issues – the right paperwork not being in place and inappropriate route planning, are amongst some of the issues reported.  What qualifies as an abnormal load and, with so many people involved in that chain of safety, where does the responsibility lie?
Nina: With any transport operation you’ve got to think about the process. With abnormal loads this gets really critical, because it can be very complicated. If you have something that is oversized, very heavy… you’ve got to give notifications and plan your route very carefully, because there will be roads that your load simply doesn’t fit down. You’ve got a lot of arrangements to make in advance. And, we have seen issues with this recently, I think it’s fair to say. Load security issues as well, which is slightly alarming because some of these loads are very, very heavy. Any load shift has the potential to be deadly, even something that is very small and light could kill in certain circumstances. But when you’ve got a very heavy load, the potential for disaster is very high, and you really need to make sure that that load is secure, and it is not going to go anywhere.
In terms of the responsibility – and again, this applies to anything – from a legal point of view, I think the responsibilities are quite clear. So, you’ve got Section 40A of the Road Traffic Act, which is the section that applies to the movement of a load on the road. That sets out a division of responsibility between the driver of the vehicle and anyone who causes or commits the vehicle to be on the road. And everyone has a responsibility to make sure that the vehicle itself, and the load it carries, are safe. Under Health and Safety legislation, of course, employers have a general duty to ensure the health and safety not just of their own employees, but also of anyone else who might be affected by their work activities. So you’ve got this division between all parties. It’s not enough to just say “Oh, the driver’s responsible – that’s it. Once it’s out of the gate, it’s all on the driver”. There is always a chain of responsibility from the point of loading right through to unloading.
Anne-Marie: Yeah, thank you for that. I want to talk now about HSE investigations. About 1/3 of injury collisions involve someone who is driving or riding for work. And in 2019 we saw 1495 at-work-drivers and 556 passengers of those drivers were killed or seriously injured in road crashes. So investigating fatal and serious collisions is part of your remit as the HSE. When do the HSE become involved in investigation?
Nina: Well, HSE generally doesn’t get involved in the investigation of road traffic collisions as such, because the police will take the lead. So you have this overlap of legislation, this overlap of enforcement responsibilities. And it’s exactly that situation – you have the police, DVSA, HSE… and we have agreements between us on where our enforcement remit is. It does depend – I’m not being evasive here at all – but it does depend on the particular circumstance of the incident. So the police may ask for HSE assistance in some cases. That may be technical assistance… or the police and HSE may carry out a joint investigation. Sometimes the police initially will take the lead but then hand the investigation over to HSE. It really does depend on the circumstances. And where, and how, that incident happened.
Anne-Marie: Providing advice and help with investigating fatal and serious collisions is just one part of your role – you also carry out research projects into different aspects of vehicle, driver, and load safety. How has this shaped the polices of the HSE and helped to reduce risk?
Nina: I’m a mechanical engineer by background, and it’s been really interesting to me over the years that a lot of the issues we see are not really to do with things going wrong mechanically, they’re to do with people. And how people react to things. So, I led a research project about 11 years ago now, looking at vehicle rollaway. And that research led to working with trade associations and other groups who produced the 2014 Safe Coupling Guidance, which is really good guidance. As I said before, people don’t set out to have an incident. Serious incidents can happen to experienced, well-trained drivers because people are human beings and they get distracted. They might be having a bad day or they’re tired and they forget to apply the trailer park brake.
So we incorporated a lot of the lessons from research and from incidents into the HSE Workplace Transport Safety Guidance. A lot of that is about trying to design out human error. People do make mistakes, it’s inevitable. It happens to everybody. And if there are ways that we can design that out, it’s always going to be a safer system.
And again, going back to an earlier point, one of the things I really like about the transport industry is this constant drive for innovation and making things better. When I look at the equipment that’s available for operators now, it’s a completely different world to how it was in 2007, 2008. Drivers who aren’t climbing up on the load bed – they don’t need to anymore, because things are being done different way, or different equipment means they don’t have to – are not going to fall off the load bed. It doesn’t matter if a driver forgets to apply the parking brake if there is an interlock that does it for them.
And it’s that kind of innovation, that dialogue with industry, the two-way communication, that is really important. Not only in terms of shaping HSE’s policy and the advice that we give to people, but also to driving the industry forward, and helping them to innovate and come up with new ways of working, new equipment. I quite regularly get emails and phone calls from people who have come up with a new way of doing something, or have invented a new system – and it’s great. It’s fantastic because people are constantly thinking about these things – “how can we do that better”?
From HSE’s perspective, we don’t say to people – for the most part – the way they must do it. There are certain things you must do, for example if you have lifting equipment, you must inspect that equipment at regular intervals. But generally speaking, we say “this is the level of safety that we want you to reach. How you get there is up to you. We will help you help you and give you advice – but ultimately it is what suits your business”.
And certainly in the transport sector, people rise to that, and come up with their own ways of working that suit their business. And they reach that level of safety.
Anne-Marie: That’s great, and it’s really refreshing to hear that people are coming up with their own, new ideas on how to make workplace transport safer. Because it is a very changing environment, especially when we look now at the different types of vehicles offered for use in the workplace, on the roads, electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, and the whole range of new technologies that are coming on board. That innovation is really refreshing to hear, and I’m really encouraged.
There’s more understanding now that workplace safety extends to work activities on the road as well, just as much as it does in a fixed building or workplace. And the HSE refreshed its guidance on driving and riding for work, 3 years ago. That’s been really well received. We use the term ‘guidance’, but it’s more than guidance. So what happens if employers don’t follow that HSE guidance?
Nina: Well HSE guidance is there to explain what employers need to do. What they must do to comply with the law. For example, we say an employer must assess workers’ health and safety capabilities and competence before they operate a work vehicle. And we say they should make sure the vehicle is road-worthy before it goes onto the public highway.
If an employer chooses not to do those things – so let’s say they allow someone who doesn’t have a valid driving license to take out a work vehicle, or they send them out in a vehicle with bald tyres – then not only are they putting that individual and other road users at risk, they’re also committing specific road traffic offences, under the Road Traffic Act, and the Construction and Use Regulations.
So we do provide that guidance to help people comply with their responsibilities, with their legal responsibilities – whether that’s under road traffic legislation or under workplace safety legislation. As I said before, we are a goal-setting regulator. We don’t necessarily tell people exactly what they need to do. We let people devise their own system to do that. And that is why we do produce so much guidance – if you go onto the HSE guidance website I think we’ve produced guidance on just about everything. And we’re always happy to help people if they have queries, because it’s so important that people have a system that works for them, that isn’t imposed by somebody else – it works for them and their business. And that’s what we try to help them to do.
Anne-Marie: Brilliant, thank you. Nina, this has been really eye-opening. I could talk much more about this subject because the range of topics that we could discuss in this area is huge. Thank you so much for joining us today. If people want to get more information about anything they’ve heard today where should they go to find that information?
Nina: There are lots of places they can get information – so the HSE website has lots of information, DVSA have lots of information themselves, and of course National Highways do, and the Driving for Better Business website.
Anne-Marie: Brilliant, thanks Nina. For everything that you’ve heard today, like Nina says – there’s information on various websites. We will certainly put links to the Driving for Better Business website in the shownotes. Thank you for listening, and thank you Nina.
Brought to you by Driving for Better Business.

Tuesday Feb 14, 2023

Welcome to the Driving for Better Business podcast celebrating women working in transport, fleet management, and road safety.  I’m delighted to have Rebecca Morris, road casualty reduction, marketing and PR specialist, with me today.
Welcome to the Driving for Better Business podcast celebrating women working in transport, fleet management, and road safety.  I’m delighted to have Rebecca Morris, road casualty reduction, marketing and PR specialist, with me today.
Rebecca, welcome to the Driving for Better Business podcast. I’m really pleased you’re here with us today. Now, I’ve got fond memories of working with you in road safety partnerships, supporting them across the UK. And as well… remember visiting Moldova? To support the development of their road safety partnership? So we’ve got a bit of road safety history between us. You’ve been in road safety marketing and public relations for over 18 years – how did your career start?
Hi – thanks so much for having me. It’s great to see you Anne-Marie, it’s been a long, long time and we do have a lot of history as you’ve said, in road casualty reduction. So yeah, I’ve been in road safety marketing and PR now for the best part of two decades. I was a journalist – that’s how I started my career – and then I started working at the Derby Safety Camera Partnership, back in 2004, and that’s where my road safety career began. And I’ve not looked back, and I don’t intend to go anywhere else, because suddenly I had a real purpose. I was writing about something that’s so important. And it’s been quite a journey over the last two decades, it’s changed a lot. So, yeah, it’s great to be here!
You’re right, things have changed in road safety over those two decades so much. And when we first met, you were working for Road Safety Support – they provide a range of services to road safety professionals in the UK and abroad. It’s a key means of support for road safety partnerships, so how vital was your communications role for the road safety professionals?
Yeah, so, I actually still work with Road Safety Support as a consultant. I was employed by them for 16 years – a wonderful time, working with the company. A very useful, worthwhile operation that was set up when the safety camera partnerships had changed. They became road safety partnerships. The Department for Transport was no longer at the helm influencing things that were going on within the partnerships – the responsibility was handed over to those partnerships to go it alone really, and Road Safety Support was set up back then in 2007 to support them through that. So my role was really created with the company and yeah, until the end of last year I was an employee. But that amount of time speaks for itself really. It’s a fantastic role to do, and supporting the partnerships with their day to day communications and casualty reduction marketing activities, and also of course promoting Road Safety Support, making sure we were known in the UK and overseas.
Thanks. So, you’ve moved on now a little bit and you’re now with RoadPeace. It’s the national charity for road crash casualties and their families in the UK. And it’s a really vital area of support – tell us a little bit about the organisation and your role there.
Yeah, RoadPeace is a very special organisation. I’ve been aware obviously of RoadPeace for the whole time I’ve been in road safety because obviously you’re aware of the charities that are out there, you’re aware of these things. But it’s only in the last few years that I’ve really appreciated what they do because I was fortunate, really, to begin supporting them, almost on a secondment basis. Road Safety Support very kindly donated my time as a marketing specialist to support the Andy Cox Challenge, as it was called back then, back in 2021 when this challenge was set up. It was a coming together of police forces, raising money, and raising awareness of road danger, and road harm. And it was raising money for RoadPeace. And now it’s evolved, it’s become the RoadPeace Challenge, it’s a big part of my role. But it was then that I really discovered what RoadPeace does, and I met so many wonderful people who have so sadly been affected by road crashes, either as a victim themselves or as a family member.
And it’s really humbling, because we all talk about road crashes every day as road safety professionals but to actually be with those people who you’re talking about when you talk about those numbers and stats is really quite chilling. I always thought I appreciated it and I knew the real problem out there, but it wasn’t until I began working with RoadPeace that I really understood, and had the realisation that my experience in marketing and communications could be used in something as important as telling the stories of those people who had been affected by road crashes. And hopefully helping to change behaviour out there; hopefully, to get some campaigns out there which will help people to think differently. To use the roads differently. And hopefully, everybody will see it as their problem, and not just something the police should be sorting out. Or ‘that’s not my issue, I’m a good driver’, or ‘I’m a safe road user, I don’t need to worry, it’s the other people out there’. And I think if we all start to take responsibility, that can make a huge difference out there.
That’s a really important point you’ve mentioned. So, we often now talk about a shared responsibility, between those who design, build and manage the road networks, and also those who use them. We have a responsibility as road users to make sure that [??? 06:30] human error – we’re all guilty of getting things wrong, but we should go out with the thought in mind that we’re not going to do any harm because we’re going to do everything that we can to keep ourselves safe, and then keep others safe as well. The behaviour that we have on the roads is so important, and sometimes I think because people don’t see the devastating impact of crashes, they don’t realise how important their behaviour on the road actually is.
No, and that’s the point I think with my role at RoadPeace. It’s a newly created role – Communications and Partnerships Lead – and it’s engaging closely with stakeholders, police forces, local authorities and safer road partnerships, which is very close to my background, and I know a lot of people in that area. But it’s putting that story across. Trying to get people to see in different ways.
There are lots of things we’ve done over the years to try and put across these messages. We’ve got so much more we need to do – we need to understand people more. That is what is missing, for me. There are some partnerships, local authorities, forces who are going above and beyond to do wonderful things to prevent road death and injury. But a lot of them are working within their very limited resources. What we need to do, in the UK, is a huge study into people’s behaviour and thinking. We need to know what it is that really makes people do what they do. And we need to break them down into segments. We need to know who those groups of people are that we’re targeting so we can design our marketing campaigns around specific types of road user based around what that road user thinks, and what works.
Because again, I really want to plough my efforts into raising awareness around the devastation, and letting people see just how road crashes, and the actions of people every day – they didn’t mean to have a crash, they didn’t mean to do this or that – but they did, and sadly this is happening, and 5 people are dying every day on our roads. And more than 60 are being seriously injured. And hundreds are being physically or mentally affected every day. Which is terrible, and that fact alone – we need to raise awareness of that. We need people to know that. Because I don’t think people really know the risks. It’s become… we get in our cars, we get on our bikes. We have to go to school. We have to walk the kids to school. We have to get to work. We have to do this… we’re so busy. We have to do everything, don’t we? And we don’t get in the car and think, we’re about to drive a machine that’s capable of killing someone. ‘I must drive this carefully, because this machine could actually kill somebody’. We don’t think like that.
So we need to know how to start getting people to think like that. We don’t want to terrify people, we don’t want people to think they shouldn’t leave the house, of course there’s got to be a balance. But at the moment, I don’t think people realise the risks they and their families face every single day when they leave their homes.
Yeah. It’s really interesting – some years ago, I saw a piece of graffiti in a town centre, and it said, ‘What you see depends on where you stand’. And if you’ve only ever been stopped by the police and given a ticket, or even a caution or warning – you’ll see it from one perspective. But if you’ve been involved in a collision, or you’ve had family or friends who have been hurt or just had a damage-only collision, which can be just as scary or just as frightening, then you’ll see it from a very different perspective. And from my own perspective, I had a life-threatening motorcycle crash. And that led me to working in road safety – because I didn’t want anybody else to go through what I’d gone through.
The physically injuries healed, and I’ve learned to live with a certain amount of pain, one leg shorter than the other. I have difficulties walking occasionally. But I’ve got psychological scars – and managing mental health and wellbeing after a road crash is so important. How can we do that better?
For me, I think the mental health – road safety link is huge, and it’s not something I’d probably have thought too much about in the past even though I’ve had my own mental health struggles, I guess, in the past. But it’s not something I was really aware of. But since I’ve been working with road victims more closely and bereaved families, it’s really made me think of that.
So, I think it’s two-fold. I think not only is it people like yourself, Annie – and I do remember that, we’ve talked about that over the years – I think it’s that, it’s obviously the person who has been involved in the collision, and who has hopefully lived to tell the tale like yourself. And it’s easy to think – ‘oh, well you were lucky, you survived, you’re ok’ – but what about that awful… the physical and mental scars that are left on that person, and that person’s family. So I think that’s the one side of it, and a very important side of it. And last year, we put out a news story based on some research by Professor Andrew Morris and Doctor Jo Barnes from Loughborough University. And they’d researched the ripple effect of road crashes. And it’s estimated around 500,000 people in the UK every year are affected by a road crash in one way or another, so physically or mentally. So either as the person that was involved in the crash, or their loved one that’s either caring for that person who’s been injured or caring for them because they’ve been mentally affected as a result of it. And actually, I don’t think that even includes those victims, if you like, who are unaccounted for. Who maybe, maybe it was a very serious collision on a road, on a motorway, and it was witnessed and seen by lots of people who weren’t actually involved in that collision - a child even, who has seen an awful sight that they will never be able to unsee. That’s on top of those 500,000 people.
So really, when you think about the direct impact of a crash in terms of mental health, we have that side of it. But I think there’s the other side of it too – how do the crashes occur in the first place? How many of us in the UK have mental health conditions? 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind every year in England – just England. That’s the current stat on the MIND website. So if 1 in 4 of those people is a driver, how many of us are going out every day on the roads with a mental health issue? We’re not going to leave that behind before we get in the car, or before we start walking down the street, or get on our bike. Are we distracted? Are we disassociated from the world in some way? Are we angry? Are we frustrated? We’re going to take those things with us on the roads, and I think that’s the worrying thing.
And we’re all doing everything at 100 miles an hour – not necessarily in speeding terms but in our lives – things are so busy, and there’s so much pressure on us in our lives these days to be here, be there, be everywhere… as parents, working parents, we’ve got to be at work, be at meetings, we’ve got to drop children off, pick children up, we’ve got to go to a club after school with our children. We’ve got to do everything, that’s how we feel. And, I guess, women in particular will probably feel that. We’re not going to leave all those worries and stresses and that anxiety behind us when we get in a car, or when we use the road. So I think, for me, there are two sides to the mental health link.
Definitely. And I completely get the ripple effect. I didn’t move home for nearly a year after my bike crash. I had to live with my parents because I couldn’t walk, couldn’t look after myself, so, those ripples go out far and wide. And we don’t appreciate how they affect other people. And I firmly believe that we need a more holistic approach for those involved in road crashes to help them recover. We fix the physical and that’s sort of business as usual. I had an open fracture of my femur, and there was no way they were going to leave that – that needed fixing. That was obvious. And that’s good, we’ve got that nailed. But I had depression after my collision, and it wasn’t really assessed at the time, after a traumatic event. So there was no understanding of what I might go on to suffer after the collision. And when I went to a doctor, they told me things like ‘you just need to go and get some exercise’. And I thought, ‘do you know what, I’d love to be able to’ – and exercise absolutely does help with things like depression. But when you’re lying in bed and your mind is saying ‘get out’, but your body won’t move because you have clinical depression and you physically can’t get out of bed… that can be assessed much earlier to help us deal with the impacts of that. Dealing with mental health and wellbeing isn’t mandatory after a traumatic event and I absolutely think it should be, as part and parcel of fixing the physical, as is anything else that we would do to deal with somebody’s injuries.
Poor mental health can often affect the way we approach driving – sometimes in ways we don’t realise. Driving is stressful… how do we make sure that we’re fit to drive, and that our mental health is making us fit to drive?
I think as a road user we just need to know more about what’s expected of us, and we need to know how seriously the subject is taken by those we look to in authority, by the police, safer road partnerships, the fire service, the government… and I think, by enlarge, those people are working really hard to do that. But obviously, they can only do so much with working in the restraints they have and the resources that they have. And I think this is where, in an ideal world, we’d be spelling this out to people, that everybody has a responsibility, everybody should feel a sense of responsibility.
But unfortunately, people don’t believe that they will be the cause of a collision. They think it’s somebody else. And it’s quite fascinating looking at the psychology of it. And I don’t have that expertise, it’s only things I’ve read, but certainly the term ‘optimism bias’ is used, and that means, basically, that as humans we’re wired to think that things are more likely to go right for us than they are to go wrong. So we don’t get in the car, or get out on the road and think, ‘right, note to self, I’d better be really careful today because I might have a crash’. We’re more likely to not think anything, actually, I think… we’re more likely to be like, ‘oh, I’ll be alright, I’ll be fine’. Nobody intended to have that crash. Nobody intended to be looking at their phone. Really, I mean, yeah, it’s a conscious decision to, say, use your phone or drink and drive. They didn’t mean to cause any harm, but they did. And so many people have. And sadly, so many people are continuing to every single day.
Another 5 people will die today on the roads in the UK. And tomorrow. And the next day. As a result of somebody who didn’t think it would be them that would do that. Or just did not think, full stop. So I think our efforts need to be ploughed into understanding road users better and making them think. And of course, that’s not an easy thing – we need to work with professionals, psychologists, road safety and transport psychologists who know a bit more than I do. We need to get that research done and we need to understand the situation.
So, employers have a role to play in helping to make the roads safer with their staff who drive. And then also it extends to the health and safety of their staff. Where can employers, managers, and especially those who do manage drivers, find more advice and support to have conversations with their staff about their mental health and how it affects their driving, to make sure that we are addressing these issues?
I mean I know about Driving for Better Business very well – so if I was signposting somebody who wanted to find out more, I would definitely suggest they obviously reach out, it would be a good start to reach out to yourselves. But I think, again, we need employers to appreciate the responsibility that they have as part of their corporate social responsibility. Their drivers are using the roads and if they have big fleets, I don’t think it’s okay just to think ‘well, we pay taxes and we make sure our vehicles are in good order, and therefore it’s all fine’. I think we need to, again this is a whole different campaign, reach out. And I know Driving for Better Business does an awful lot of work in this area. But I think it’s great to really see with our own eyes that businesses are appreciating their responsibilities in this area and communicating regularly with their drivers and employees about it.
And then it becomes a collaboration, all of a sudden – we’re all in this together, whoever we are. If we use the roads, we’re all in it together, and pretty much everybody uses the road. So, whoever you are!
Absolutely. And finally, if anybody has been involved in a collision, or is a family member or friend of somebody who has, where can they get the help and advice? What’s the RoadPeace email address, where they could start just to talk to somebody about what they’re feeling?
Yeah, I would strongly urge anyone to reach out to RoadPeace, whenever it was – it could have been 20 years ago that they were involved or they had a family member that was involved, and they’ve probably always just had this underlying wonder about various things… there are so many people at RoadPeace who understand, people who have properly been in the same position that you have, either recently or a long time ago. And there are some wonderful people that are there to support you.
So, yeah, you can reach out – go to the RoadPeace website, I would suggest is probably the best starting point, which is www.RoadPeace.org. And that would be a great starting point. You can find the means to reach out to people, you can call them, you can email them, and you can sign up to receive regular updates from RoadPeace which hopefully will be of comfort.
And I just need to mention, there is a RoadPeace Challenge, which I did touch upon earlier. But the RoadPeace Challenge 2023, bigger and better, it’s going hopefully raise lots of money for RoadPeace who need to do what they do, as we’ve discussed, to support the many, many people that are affected by road crashes. But also, probably more importantly, it’s going to raise awareness about road harm, and around the impact that it really does have, physically and mentally, on so many people. 500,000 people – at least – every year in the UK are affected in some way by a road crash, whether that’s physically or mentally, whether that’s a loved one or the victim themselves.
The RoadPeace Challenge will bring together police forces, local authorities, the fire service, safer roads partnerships, ambulance crews, doctors, consultants. We’ve launched now – the event takes place from the 15th May to the 21st May 2023. And we’re basically asking anyone with any kind of interest in improving safety on our roads to come forward. We’re taking a united stand against road harm, alongside road crash victims. We’re bringing all those people together. We’re looking for businesses who might want to support that challenge as sponsor – we’ve got packages to suit all budgets. And not only would you be supporting such an important event and supporting RoadPeace, but you’d also be demonstrating publicly that you have that commitment to reducing road deaths and injuries. Thank you!
Thank you, Rebecca. It’s been an absolute pleasure discussing this with you – a hidden subject that we need to be able to talk about, and know where to find support.
Thanks for joining us today – and if people want to know more about Driving for Better Business and the benefits to managing and reducing your road risk take a look at the website www.drivingforbetterbusiness.com

Monday Jan 16, 2023

Useful Links
National Gridhttps://www.nationalgrid.com/
DfBB Women in Transport Podcast
Annie: Welcome to the Driving for Better Business podcast celebrating women working in transport, fleet management, and road safety. Delighted that with me today is Lorna McAtear, who is the Fleet Manager for National Grid. Lorna, a really warm welcome to the Driving for Better Business podcast. Now, whenever we hear the title ‘Fleet Manager’, it conjures up phrases like planning, managing, coordinating drivers, vehicles, procurement, utilisation, and then there’s maintenance and repair. A whole host of things. But, what does a normal week look like for you? Is there a ‘normal week’?
Lorna: Great question – no, I don’t think there is a normal week. So, even if I just take today as an example, I’ve gone from company car orders, through to consultation papers, through to reporting for various things out there that we’ve signed up to, your EV100s and everything else… I’ve gone into what’s next on our Responsible Business Charter, through to strategic direction and planning for the next couple of years, and I’m reading through CVs, because I’ve got a current vacancy at the moment. So, there is no normal week, and it really does depend on when the phone rings, and what the query is on the other side of it.
Annie: Excellent. Well, your knowledge around fleet management is phenomenal. And in particular, telematics. Where does the learning on telematics in particular come from? Was it on the job? Or was it somewhere special that you went to get that kind of knowledge?
Lorna: So, I didn’t fall into fleet in your traditional way that a lot of people do. In fact, I’m not sure if there is a traditional way of falling into fleet, you kind of end up there, one way or another. I used to be an IT Project Manager, so actually all of my background and early career was data systems, coding… I didn’t quite program but I kind of got there. So a lot of my knowledge was already in that digital space. So I picked up telemetry projects. What I had to do was look at some carbon reduction stuff. I was kind of filling a gap in terms of projects I’d got, and they said ‘oh, we’ve given some money over here to fleet, go and see what they’re up to and how they’re spending it for us’. And it was telemetry and carbon reduction. So, I literally got involved that way around. And, because of my understanding of how computers work – for want of a better description – it made it so much easier. I was one of the first at that point in time that went with a one-box solution, instead of the two-box solutions that were out there at that point in time. And I remember going away to a session with my colleague that I kind of revered – they were up there on this pedestal – and we got to the end of this meeting and on data and language in vehicles and black boxes. And at the end of it, he asked me if I understood everything that was going on – and I went ‘yeah, everything, why?’. He went ‘I didn’t have a clue what they were talking about’. You suddenly realise that what you’ve got is a different skillset – and it’s just as valid. Even now, I get asked how I got into fleet, and how do you get there from IT. And it’s like… over half of a car is computing now. It’s actually a logical step when you think about it.
Annie: Well absolutely. And that’s a really interesting point – so, at the moment, there’s some really focused discussions about electric vehicles, the pros and cons… and they’re also things that businesses need to consider when changing their fleet, and looking at electric vehicles and other systems that are on cars and vans nowadays. So what are your thoughts on how this change can be managed, with all this technology that’s around?
Lorna: It’s an interesting one, because with that, I guess I’ve got that project management skillset that’s inherently there now – so you look at all of it very differently. You look at where the legislation is coming down. You look at what’s going to happen to you next. I guess I’m always in the ‘what’s next?’ space. So, with that, I’m always questions ‘what have I got today?’, ‘what do I need tomorrow?’, and ‘how do I get there?’. It’s putting that planning into it, and understanding what the barriers are that people are going to have to overcome, and how you move through each of those. Is it a transition, and you’ve got a handful of people that you need to deal with? Is it something you’ve got to do immediately, because actually your company is one of those that wants to promote this as a product themselves? So, you need to understand what each company does, what’s driving it forward. And therefore you can get in on that messaging. And once you understand that yourself, and how your fleets are used, it makes it easier for you to talk to all the other people in the company, to make sure you’re all heading in the same direction. And that’s the key thing – it’s getting in the right direction.
Annie: Yeah, and you’ve mentioned about talking to others in the company, so… National Grid – correct me if I’m wrong – I think it’s one the world’s largest publicly listed utility companies? And operates around 20,000 vehicles, I think I read, in a mixed fleet.
Lorna: Yes, there’s about 10,000 vehicles over in the US, and again the same over here now that we’ve bought the Western Power – and that’s part of it now. So we’ve got the distribution, as well as the transmission business. So yeah, quite a large mixed fleet.
Annie: And ensuring safety and compliance standards are being met in something that large – firstly, it’s a huge priority, and must be quite difficult to manage. So, how crucial is the internal collaboration to achieve that?
Lorna: Oh it’s absolutely crucial. Some things are easier – so we’ve got some unionised areas as well of that business. So some things are easier in terms of, when you think of O Licences and what you need to do for those heavier vehicles, it’s actually quite clear-cut. It’s black and white – you either follow the rule, or you don’t. So, that makes those discussions really easy.
It’s when you’re in those calmer, more emotive side of things that make things just that little bit more of a challenge. And everyone has a different opinion as well – we all drive, so everybody has an opinion of how you should manage a car fleet. And it’s working out, then, how you interact with all those business units, how you interact with the safety teams. Because, as a utility, safety is absolutely critical to us for all sorts of other reasons – we’re dealing with high-voltage stuff all the time. So making sure of that… it’s almost inherent in our DNA, that we look at what we do, when we do it, when it comes to our vehicles as well. So it’s having that transcend all the way through your business. Safety and compliance are absolutely key for us. It was a real problem during Covid as well, when we were trying to put new vehicles out there – so getting the electric cars out – when you’ve got a different technology and you couldn’t do your usual on-the-drive training.
Annie: Yeah. We touched on safety earlier, and vehicles come with a range of safety systems. So, how beneficial are these systems in reducing the risk for the National Grid for their people that drive?
Lorna: You have to think of safety systems as a tool and a guide. That’s one of the things I’m very keen to get through to people. They’re a guide for you as the driver, they’re a prompt. And safety systems therefore are absolutely critical – they’re needed out there. When you’ve got a challenge with drivers is that some vehicles now have got them and they’re slightly more aggressive out there. How do you educate your drivers that ‘that lane departure does this for this reason, but you can override it if you’ve got to move out beyond that…’? There are all sorts of things that you need to understand what you can do and how you can do it. I think there are some challenges with some of those systems, if I’m being brutally honest. And as much as I’m an advocate for them, there are some bits that I think ‘that might just be a little bit too aggressive…’. So, when your sensors get dirty on the vehicles, for example, other shadows play in, and then your vehicle will anchor up. And if you’re not prepared for it, and you’re slow manoeuvring – reversing into your driveway for example… that anchoring up might actually jar your wrist on the steering wheel. So it’s having a look at things in a very different way, and just making sure your drivers are comfortable with their vehicles – because ultimately, they’re the ones in control of it, they’re the ones that take that risk. It’s their responsibility.
Annie: Yeah, and do you know what – I actually hadn’t thought of that angle, about keeping the sensors clean and tidy. You’d think that would be a natural thing, but you’re quite right – I mean, my parking sensors probably haven’t been cleaned in a million years. Luckily, I don’t need them to park – although some would disagree if they could see my parking! But, with the safety systems, you’ve mentioned something really important there about educating the drivers. And I don’t think there’s enough education and information out there for drivers to understand the safety systems they have available to them, and actually how they need to work with them. Because these systems, they don’t do it for you, they’re there to assist the driver. Where do people get that information?
Lorna: So, we try where we can to impart that. One of the things we also do in our handbooks and everything else is we ensure drivers read the handbooks that come with their vehicles. So, normally you’d have your handover to start with, you’d go through most of that, you’d familiarise with all the patrols and the basics that you do out there. And then you get into the more detailed stuff. The problem is, we don’t always know what comes on these vehicles now. And especially with the electric ones, and the over-the-system updates, some things are coming down that switch something else on, or turn something else off. So, it’s trying to keep up to date with it, and the guidance we give to a lot of our drivers is just to keep reading those updates. Keep reading that, because every vehicle is different. And my fleet is made up of so many different vehicles, I can’t actually as an individual tell all of my drivers ‘right, on your vehicle you have this, and on your vehicle, you have this’. Which is why I come back to that point that ultimately, it’s still the driver’s responsibility, and that’s the bit that we communicate to them. It is your responsibility to familiarise yourself with your vehicle and make sure you understand how it works. Of course, we’re seeing it now with the weather – it’s raining so much, and my car the other day turned around and said, ‘I can’t actually give you any assistance because I can’t see’. And handed over to me. And when you’re stuck on a motorway, stuck between junctions on a motorway, you can’t pull over and wait for the rain to stop. You’ve just got to slow down and do it yourself again.
Annie: Yeah – and that’s a really good reminder, that actually these things are there to assist us, not to do it for us. Are there systems that are trying to find that balance, between what we need now, and what we may need in the future? Are there particular systems that you think are essential now, that will see us through to the future, or do you think people should be looking to the future for things like lane-keep assist? Because that’s reliant on so many other things, to be in the right place to actually help the technology work.
Lorna: Yeah, and it’s also reliant on whether there are white lines on the road that are clearly marked. So, when you look at the roadworks that we’ve got, the temporary movements that we’ve got, the potholes that we’ve got… actually the highway itself isn’t helping us when you move into these vehicles and the more advanced technology on it. And the one thing – it’s horrible to say it, isn’t it – but I’m actually petrified about the autonomous vehicles, and the automated driving. And the reason I say that is that I think of them as being a bit like aeroplanes. You have an aeroplane, but the pilot still has to be trained, even though in itself it does the autopilot and does it for you. And when we’ve got these vehicles… even now when you have a vehicle beep at you, you’re distracted trying to work out why it’s beeped at you. And you’re trying to work out what it is. And the more the vehicle drives for you, the less you drive it yourself. So, I love it when you get these companies out there saying ‘yeah, but what about the blame game?’ and ‘the human can take over when the computer doesn’t know what it’s doing’… yeah, but not if the human’s reading a book, because the car’s been driving for them. Or not if the human’s actually forgotten how to respond in a skid, or anything else that’s going on. We still need to make sure our drivers know how to drive.
Annie: Absolutely. And there is thinking that says if we’re not expecting drivers to actually be involved in the driving, when it comes to them needing to be, they won’t be ready to actually pick up the reigns and drive again. So it’s really quite difficult in that space that we’ve got between manual driving to fully automated… there’s that gap in the middle where we’re expected to have that half-and-half world. That, to me, is where the risk is at the moment.
Lorna: That’s how I see it as well. You’ve got that mixed messaging, saying ‘yeah, it’s great, because actually if you’ve got mobility issues and you need to get in this vehicle, this vehicle can turn up and it can take you there, and it can do this…’ and it’s like, yeah, great. But then you can’t be that driver that takes over when something goes wrong.
Annie: Yeah. And one of the things that we’ve seen at the moment as well is that, when people are driving as part of their job, they don’t see that as a skill, or the vehicle as the tool that they’re using. They don’t see themselves as professional drivers, it’s just what they do to get to their jobs. So if the vehicle isn’t seen as the workplace at the moment, then when we come onto assisted vehicles and fully autonomous, it’s going to be seen as less of something that you do that’s a tool and a skill, and more of the workplace in which you don’t have to drive but you can do other work. How can we get around that?
Lorna: I don’t honestly know. I have no answers to that one. And I think that transition as well… I sat in a review for another vehicle, and they were talking about creating these vehicles that were a mobile workspace, the electric ones. And we pointed out to them ‘well, that’s great, but what you’ve now got is this bright light beacon on a charging point that’s a captive audience for anybody who wants to come and smash the windscreen for you’. Because you’re advertising that you’re sitting in there, on your laptop, working away, quite happily – which are all good things, but actually there is another lens now. You’ve now got an advertising beacon saying ‘hey! I’m over here with an expensive piece of kit’. How do you manage that safety?
Annie: Yeah, all these additional risks that we hadn’t considered in the past. That’s amazing. Ok, so, these are really hot topics. Another thing I know that you’re involved in is fleet news webinars that happen monthly. And these also consider things that are hot topics. What’s been going on there?
Lorna: So yeah, as you said, I’m on a lot of webinars. One of them that I do is Fleet News at 10. So Fleet News run it, it’s the last Friday of every month at 10 o’clock. There’s a whole panel of us on there, fleet managers, Paul from AFP as well is the chair. And literally we pick up any hot topic. Whether that’s the latest legislation coming through – so one thing most people don’t realise is that the Block Exemption rules have gone through and been ratified. So, how does that affect fleet managers? What does that mean? So it can be anything from that kind of detail of legislation, all the way through to advice on how to charge the vehicles because you’ve got some problems coming through at the moment, or supply chain issues that we’re seeing, the challenges in the insurance market at the moment and how they’re adapting – or not, as the case may be – to this transition to electric vehicles and zero emission vehicles going forward. That session’s really good, and I think some Fridays, it actually turns into more of a therapy-type session, because we’re all kind of in the same mode going ‘thank goodness it’s not just me that’s having these problems’!
Annie: And you know, it is good to talk. It is good to discuss. And that’s why we’re really keen within the Driving for Better Business programme to share that learning and that good practice, because then we can all be part of the solution, which would be brilliant.
Lorna: And we can’t know it all at the moment – it’s such a challenge, it’s moving so fast. We do have to reach out to people and put an arm around each other and say, ‘it’s alright, I’m here, I’m having the same problem – let’s see how we can figure it out, let’s have a coffee’. Let’s do more of that.
Annie: Lorna, it’s been a hugely enjoyable and insightful interview today. To finish – what top three qualities do you think make a good fleet manager?
Lorna: Oh wow, now there’s a challenging question. I think for me, the first one – especially in this industry at the moment – is patience and flexibility. A combination of the two. Flexibility because you need to be open to new ideas, new skillsets coming in, different offerings from people, innovation. Patience because not everyone can move at the same time, not everybody wants to move at the same time. So you need both of those to be able to make a change. Three qualities… to have a vision. So one thing I’m always talking about when I’m out there is the end goal. Know where you’re going, and then all the bits that are needed to do that. So basically the plan. Have your plan, have your vision, because then you’ll bring your teams along with you, and you’ll bring everybody else along with you. They’ll understand how you’re going to get to that goal, even if it doesn’t seem today like it’s achievable. You can plan your way towards it. And then finally I think, for me, it’s communication. Always has been and always will be. It’s not just being able to talk – as we are right now – it’s about listening, and listening to everyone. As I said, we’re moving so fast in this industry at the moment, everyone has a valid opinion on what’s going on out there. And we need to be able to listen to other people. Because as much as we’ve just talked about automated driving and autonomous vehicles – which scares the life out of me – actually, if I listen more and more to how it can work, maybe I’ll change my opinion and can see a way forward, and how we can adapt through it.
Annie: Brilliant. Thanks Lorna, it’s been a huge pleasure talking to you today. If you’d like to hear more Women in Transport podcast sessions, go to the Driving for Better Business website – www.drivingforbetterbusiness.com. Lorna, let’s talk some more, because I’ve thoroughly enjoyed talking to you today. Thank you.
Lorna: Thank you.
For those of you who want to know more about Driving for Better Business and the benefits to managing and reducing your road risk, visit the website athttps://www.drivingforbetterbusiness.com

Thursday Dec 15, 2022

Useful Links
DfBB Women in Transport Podcast
Annie: Welcome to the Driving for Better Business podcast celebrating women working in transport, fleet management, and road safety. And today I’m very pleased to introduce Laura Thomas, not only the Director of Consul-T, but also an award-winning leading lawyer, who has advised the government on road safety, has worked for the HSE, and also as a Deputy Traffic Commissioner.
Laura, welcome to our podcast. Now, I’ve given a brief introduction to the work you’ve done, but actually your experience is really broad. Can you tell us a little more about it?
Laura: Thanks Anne-Marie. So you’re right, I have not had perhaps the straightest of career paths, but I think the winding ones are probably more interesting. So, I am a barrister – I started life as a criminal barrister, in chambers in London. I then joined a law firm, where I was for 12 years as a barrister and then partner. And I founded their regulatory and Health and Safety corporate defence team. And now, having spent a couple of years working in industry in leadership roles – in oil and gas, in civil engineering – I now work with businesses in two different strands. Firstly, as Director of Consul-T – and Consul-T offers business consultancy services, mainly in the Health and Safety field, but also regulatory, ESG, risk and compliance. And I also do legal work – still as a self-employed barrister at the Chambers of Laura Thomas, where I focus predominantly on Health and Safety and transport work.
Annie: Excellent, thank you. I can just see now all the work that you’re involved in there. And you’ve got a unique insight into the road safety aspect of that. What led you into getting involved in the road safety and transport side of things?
Laura: Yes, it’s an interesting one. And if I’m honest, I think I kind of fell into road transport and safety. I know a lot of people say it, but the transport world found me. I think early in my career I remember going to a talk by the inspirational and wonderful Carole Walker, who is the former CEO of Hermes. And I remember she said exactly the same. She said nobody really leaves school thinking they want to work in transport and road safety, but it kind of sucks you in. And I love that about it, really. There’s always so much to learn in the transport and road safety world. You can never say you’ve learnt it all.
I was then really fortunate to sit on the board of Logistics UK with Carole. And she was a huge inspiration to me. I think in my world as a criminal barrister I saw the really tragic side of road safety. I dealt with many horrendous fatalities and serious incidents on the roads, both from a health and safety perspective and a road traffic law perspective. And I wanted to understand more. So, I had the opportunity and was invited onto the Road Haulage Association Panel, and I started to do legal inquiries for the Traffic Commissioner. Although I have to admit, Anne-Marie, tachographs did and still do puzzle me! I was then appointed Deputy Traffic Commissioner and I held that role for two and a half years. My goodness, I learnt so much about road safety and the transport world sitting as Deputy Traffic Commissioner. I met some wonderful people, and it led also to some really interesting work. So I then went on to advise the government, on their high-profile Cycle Safety Review. So I think – also if I take into account my private life, riding horses on roads – I think I have experience with transport in every single form. And still to this day, I’m engaged and enthused by it all the time because it’s one area that we’ve really got to get right.
Annie: Absolutely. You mentioned that you had your eyes opened when you just started working in road safety, especially looking at the legal side of things, the horrendous things that happen on the road. And I think one of the things that we don’t realise is that because we use the roads in some shape or form every day, we don’t see the risks. Because most of us will get through the day without seeing something horrendous happening. So in our brains, we get the idea that the roads aren’t a dangerous place. But most collisions are avoidable. And I think this is why people in road safety are so passionate – because there is so much we can do to reduce toll on the road, it’s within our gift to do that. There’s a lot of human error and involvement in road safety. But actually, there’s a lot that we can do to prevent these things happening. As Deputy Traffic Commissioner, how did you engage with stakeholders and the industry to improve that and have real accountability?
Laura: Yes, well, interestingly as you know, the Deputy Traffic Commissioners work with large-goods vehicles and passenger vehicles. Which, as you’ll appreciate, I used to say to drivers when I did driver conduct hearings – you are driving a lethal weapon on the roads. And you have to understand that we put a lot of trust in your professionalism in doing that. Some people found that quite a shocking thing for me to say, but I genuinely believed it because I have seen, as you say, what can happen when it all goes wrong.
As regards to engaging with stakeholders and driving improvements, I think it’s mainly through continually banging the drum. It was about speaking to people and reminding people. It’s not about shocking people and scare tactics, it’s actually about education and engagement. So I used to attend a lot of Road Haulage Association seminars – firstly as a transport lawyer, and then as a Deputy Traffic Commissioner on behalf of the full-time Traffic Commissioners. And we talked to operators about what the burning issues were. And I found the key was actually to keep it simple. Because a lot of this, as you said Anne-Marie, is actually quite simple. Whether you’re driving vans, driving your car, whether you’re on a bike, a horse, or you’re behind the wheel of a large-goods vehicle. It’s all about thinking about what you’re doing.
And you mentioned there, Anne-Marie, about risk – and I think we all become a little too complacent about risk. It’s just about remembering what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. And if you’re in a business it’s about continually reminding your people. About what’s expected of them, and most importantly why – and I don’t mean scaremongering and talking of tragedy all the time, I just mean why? What is it, why are we asking you to do that? Because if you’re running a business that has any involvement with transport – which most do – you’re going to be led by your people. And they are the ones out there on the road. We used to say it a lot to hauliers – once your drivers are out on the road, that is it. They are responsible for the vehicle they are driving, and how can you be sure that they are taking that responsibility the way you want them to? That they’re taking it seriously? That they’re not using mobile phones, they’re not over their driving hours limits, that they haven’t had a heavy night the night before and have decided to still take the keys to the vehicle. And it’s about instilling that people-centred culture in your business. I used to have a phrase when I worked as a lawyer at Burkett’s, which was ‘say what you do, do what you say, and then have the paperwork to prove it’. Because I found that a lot of businesses were very paper-heavy. But actually that paper’s only ever so good if it’s followed in practice. So I always used to say don’t start with a piece of paper; let the piece of paper be the outcome of your risk assessment, of your thought process, of what you’re telling your people to do and why they need to do it. And as I said, that’s why I think it’s key to understand human behaviour, and really address the ‘why?’. Why are we doing things this way? Why is that not working for you? How can we help you to make it better?
I read a great quote the other day, and I loved it. It said ‘you don’t change culture through emails and memos. You change it through relationships one conversation at a time’. And that really spoke to me. I thought ‘yes – spot on’. I’ve seen a lot of businesses, and there’s an awful lot of reliance on paper. On emails. And on memos. And thinking that that equals communication. And in my experience, it doesn’t.
Annie: You’re so right, it’s interesting that one of the things that I could remove from my job to make it a little more efficient is emails, because we’re bombarded with them. And when you get so many, it’s easy just to give them a cursory look and not actually take them seriously. Sometimes there’s nothing that stands out particularly in an email that you get. And especially if it’s part of a mandatory thing that you have to do... you feel like it’s a ticking-the-box exercise and you go along with that. And I think that communication – especially a top-down communication – on the importance of something, on the values of the organisation, and why we do it this way here, is so important. And that personal touch can make all the difference, I think you’re absolutely right.
And having been responsible as a Deputy Traffic Commissioner, you will have seen – as you’ve explained – many different scenarios. What were the most common ones, were they simple ones? Complacency? ‘I couldn’t be bothered’? What were the things you saw that could have been put right quite simply?
Laura: I think it is quite a simple one actually. It’s essentially organisations not doing what they said they would. Particularly in operator licensing. Operators sign up to undertakings, and those undertakings are all essentially predicated towards road safety. And many operators simply don’t realise what that involves. I once had an operator say to me ‘oh, I thought it was like a driving license – once you’ve got it, passed the test, that was it’. And it’s very different. Operator licensing is given on trust. And you are trusted to meet the undertakings in that license – and those undertakings are vital for road safety. And so, for me, that was the main issue – people not doing what they promised to do, and therefore that trust had been broken.
Key particular areas included maintenance, for example. Frequency of inspections... with our own operator licensing inspections had to be carried out with a certain frequency. And you set the frequency, generally speaking. But if you say you’re going to do something, and then you don’t do it, that can cause a real problem, particularly for road safety. Another real hot topic for Traffic Commissioners, particularly when I sat as a Deputy Traffic Commissioner was roller brake testing. And the importance of roller brake testing – and I won’t go on about it now, because I can get on a soapbox about it. But the importance of roller brake testing and the importance of understanding what your maintenance provider is doing. Because quite often, if you look at roller brake test printouts, it says that the vehicle has passed. But often, the vehicles are insufficiently loaded – so we don’t actually know if they’ve passed. Because the percentages might have come back, or the wheels may have locked, but actually if they’re insufficiently loaded, it’s not really worth the paper it’s written on. So it’s things like that, it’s about really understanding what is going on in your organisation. And that would be the same if you were operating not just large-goods vehicles, but also vans, people driving from office A to office B in their cars. Do you know that the cars are road-worthy? Do you know that they have business insurance? Do you know if they were up all night and are particularly fatigued? Fatigue is a real issue, as you know Anne-Marie. So for me, as a highlight, it’s people not doing what they said they would. There’s so many topics within that though, I do think businesses just need to get a bit more of a grip on vehicles on the road.
Annie: It’s interesting, your experience with supporting organisations in managing their regulatory areas. But the Health and Safety strategies within an organisation are so important, and especially linked with Health and Safety management systems that they would have anyway. Do you think that many organisations actually put the two together, or have we still got work-related road safety and road risk in a separate, dusty box in a cupboard somewhere?
Laura: I think you’ve hit on a really important point there, Anne-Marie. I think yes, actually what you said at the end there is probably more true than a holistic approach. I think organisations are starting to wake up to it, but sometimes still when I work with organisations through Consul-T, when I tell them that actually an employee moving from one site to another is business travel, sometimes they still look at me in surprise. And so, yes, I think you’re right – there is a sort of siloed approach to this. It’s interesting because as you know, I work a lot in the Health and Safety field, and what I say about Health and Safety is ‘safety has been shouted, and health has been whispered’. And if you were to add road safety to that, I would say road safety is barely audible. And actually, it’s about having a holistic approach to it all. The principles of risk assessment relevant to Health and Safety are also equally relevant to road safety. And I think when I’m working with organisations to find safer ways of operating, a lot of that is directly linked to road safety. People-plant interface, for example.
I’m still seeing things that defy belief for me. I’ve seen, in the last year, people standing on the back of a moving flatbed, for example. I’ve seen people walking behind reversing vehicles without high vis on. This is within workplaces. I have experienced organisations not thinking there was an issue with requiring people to work all night, and then calling them to drive 100 miles the next morning to a different work site. You know, these things all have huge, huge impacts on road safety and Health and Safety generally. And so, what I would love to see is that that culture that is, in many businesses, starting to be embedded, in relation to Health and Safety extending to road safety and road risk.
Annie: Yes absolutely, so important. And you mentioned fatigue, and you mentioned employers requesting, or requiring, their staff to behave in ways which they wouldn’t do if they were operating other heavy machinery. And I think that’s the difference. We’ve got to get a grip of the way a vehicle is another heavy machinery component that we are operating. And it needs the same resources to operate in a safe manner – and if that means more than one person, because you’re doing it over a number of hours or days, then that’s actually really important. But you also touched on something that we’re trying to address within Driving for Better Business – and that is that people don’t know what work-related road risk is. They don’t know if it’s a work journey.
And I think the recent update to the HSE guidance is particularly good, because it actually spells it out quite clearly – in that it doesn’t matter who owns the vehicle you’re driving or riding, and it doesn’t matter how you’re employed. If somebody is directing the work, and that work involves driving, then they have a duty of care to the driver or rider. And I think just getting to grips with that and breaking it down a little more... so if you’re driving your own car, that’s still driving for work, even it’s not owned by your employer. If you’re self-employed, and someone is telling you to go somewhere, that is still driving for work. And the employer has that duty of care. Understanding a little bit more about the nuances is really important. And that’s what we’re really trying to do now a little bit with Driving for Better Business; to make sure that people really are clear that this isn’t just an HGV or van thing. Actually, it’s any vehicle, and any driver or rider on the road. Where should organisations be focussing their efforts to make sure they’re getting this right?
Laura: I think actually you’ve hit upon one of the best things there, Anne-Marie, and that is the resources out there. I’m still surprised by how little businesses refer to those resources – for example those resources that you’ve talked about from Driving for Better Business. The HSE website is an invaluable source for information – and I’m still amazed that the businesses I work with don’t use that as their first port of call, because I can tell you that I do! And I’ve been working in Health and Safety law for over 20 years. I’ve worked for the HSE. But the first place I always go, when I’m about to go and visit a new client, and perhaps it’s an industry I’m not particularly familiar with, the first place I go is the HSE website. It is wonderful. Years and years ago, they used to charge you for the documents there – it’s all now free, available and for me, it’s a no-brainer. An absolute no-brainer. That is the first port of call for everything.
And one thing I always remind clients of is that if something has gone wrong, it’s that standard that you’ll be measured again. Of course it’s the law, but it’s that standard that the HSE set that you’ll be measured against. And if you fall below that standard, then it’s more likely that you will face further action. And so just get to know it. It sounds like the resources you’re doing for Driving for Better Business – again, perfect example of it. There are so many government resources out there that are free, easy, and can be accessed by everybody.
Annie: Yes, absolutely. Let’s come to a final question – and I could talk to you for hours Laura, because you’re so interesting! I have to round it up at some stage. How important is the Health and Safety culture within an organisation, setting the foundations for regulatory compliance?
Laura: Okay, well I remember hearing very many years ago ‘culture is king’. That was bounded around everywhere wasn’t it. I actually don’t like that phrase, Anne-Marie – for me, it’s quite hierarchical, which is the antithesis of a good culture. I would simply say culture is everyone and everything. And by that, what do I mean? I mean that ‘we’ve always done it that way’ is the enemy of a good culture.
I do a lot of work with a leading safety behavioural psychologist, Dr. Tim Marsh. And he is very clear when he talks about this that people watch the most enigmatic or experience person and they learn from them. And it doesn’t matter what we say, it’s what we do that matters. And so I think, for me, Health and Safety leadership is central to a great culture. And great culture is built through empathy, understanding, listening – and that’s listening to understand, not to respond – and finding solutions together. And I think, perhaps quite poignantly on World Mental Health Day 2022, I’d like to end with this if I may, Anne-Marie. It’s a little phrase that I developed that I really believe in – and that’s ‘Healthy, happy people are safer and more productive’.
Annie: I couldn’t agree more with that Laura, and it’s a perfect way to end this brilliant podcast. Thank you so much for being with us today. And if you’re listening to this podcast, you’ll find more resources on Driving for Better Business, and links to things we’ve mentioned. Laura, thank you so much, it’s been an absolute pleasure.
Laura: Thank you Anne-Marie, I’ve really enjoyed it.
For those of you who want to know more about Driving for Better Business and the benefits to managing and reducing your road risk, visit the website athttps://www.drivingforbetterbusiness.com

Tuesday Nov 15, 2022

DfBB Women in Transport Podcast
Sharon: Welcome to the Driving for Better Business podcast celebrating women working in transport, fleet management, and road safety. Today I am delighted to welcome Meryl Robert who is the contract and performance team leader at National Highways.
Can you share with us your journey so far, working in the highways sector?
Meryl: Yes, I’ve been privileged in joining the Department for Transport many years ago – National Highways was not a thing at that time. I’ve been able to take on lots of different roles in the civil service which has given me quite a broad experience. Though that I managed to transfer to the earlier version of National Highways, and I’ve worked on contract teams, I’ve delivered scehmes, I’ve delivered finance, commercial and procurement, I purchased land. I worked through to national operations where I set up the customer contact centre and that’s lead to the delivering operational services. I built my experience over many years and with many diverse teams.
Sharon: I’ve been lucky enough to visit Quinton recently where the National and Regional Traffic centres – NTOC and ROC as they are known – so I’ve seen first-hand how busy your customer services teams are. How do you support the customers who use the road networks?
Meryl: As you say there are quite a few different teams based at the Quinton office. We’re the National Traffic Operations Centre, and we look after the whole of the network, it’s one of the few offices in NH that covers the whole of the strategic network. We have the customer contact centre there that works 24/7 & 365 days answering front line services, and we also have the Strategic Traffic Operations which means we have operators who set strategic signs. The National Incident Liaison Officers keep their eyes and ears open for critical incidents that impact the network. We are very interested in the impact of an incident and looking at the information around that incident, so it leaves the regional office to tactically manage the incident and mobilise the traffic officers. Our offices can then look at what information can we give to customers? What signs can we set that give the customer the opportunity to make key decisions about their journey. They can either take a break or take an alternative route but it’s so that the information is far enough away from the incident for them to make those key decisions. The data we have is particular to the centre really. It’s collected from assets on the network. We receive it in the centre, and it’s processed and verified and that happens every minute, so the data comes into the office, goes out to America, comes back again and that is happening once a minute so it’s real time information. Then that is disseminated to businesses – not only National Highways – it enables other companies to use that data to provide traffic information services and in-car services which people probably don’t realise that data is shared so far afield, and it's free.
Sharon: That’s amazing, it would be fair to say that National Highways – a lot of people think they’re responsible for building and maintain the motorways but from what you’ve said they do a lot more than that?
Meryl: Yes – we build, operate, and maintain 4300 miles of motorways and major A roads and there are over 4million journeys travelled every day and the data we collect for the network and from mobile devices means that we have that Realtime information about what’s happening. It’s shared with providers that users will know about on their phones and in car systems and we also work with communities and stakeholders – to deliver a social value and a community benefit to leave a lasting legacy if you like. This leads on to supporting key messages about pollution affecting towns and villages, reminding road users about important safety messages, so it’s an extension of that engineering capability.
We also work closely with organisations who are planning events that attract thousands of visitors. More recently we were active in giving information to the Department of Transport when they were planning the complex detail with Operation London Bridge. We support lots of sporting event, activities that take place at Wembley or at the NEC, Commonwealth Games, so we’re able to provide signing, and useful info to direct people to carparking and to let them know what’s happening in and around that area. We also help the strategic signing and timing of roadworks so that the project teams can vary the times so that the roadworks aren’t suddenly going on the network at the same time as someone leaving a very busy football event for example.
Sharon: It’s so interesting. It shows how much interaction and engagement is happening with communities that many of us wouldn’t think about.
Meryl: We’re not just building roads and causing problems – it’s actually being very proactive and how we can help these people on the network.
Sharon: The strategic road network is at the core of our national transport system. Its performance is important to the whole of the country.
Meryl: Yes, the network links people to places, materials to manufacturers and goods to markets – it’s really important for lots of companies that have critical deadlines to deliver goods to supermarkets and it has an impact on how much they’re paid. If they are late delivering, they have to pay a forfeit for that so it’s important that we work with them and give the information so they can plan their journeys. A lot of the team in the National Centre work very closely with them so we can make sure when we are planning roadworks or something that might compromise the network that they are aware of it, and we have actually consulted some of these companies directly so they can use this information. Part of the current contract that I manage is now working on how we can deliver that data in a simple way so they can use it to help plan. They have to plan routes, the safety of their drivers and to ensure the perishable goods are delivered on time - and the network will also support people to travel to work on a daily basis which now is increased after COVID. Home deliveries and visiting friends and family holidays – it’s interesting to know that the network carries 34% of all traffic and 68% of that is freight. We move 3 times more people than the rail network, so it puts it into context how important the strategic road network is to the economy.
Sharon: We also know National Highways likes to engage with their customers and et them involved in consultation and surveys
Meryl: Yes, I joined that department many years ago and we didn’t think of road users as customers – we were engineering - but that has now changed, and our key imperatives include putting safety first for our customers. We work hard to ensure that not only do we engage with the community and the users of the network but that everyone who works at National Highways is able to understand and communicate what we do and why we do what we do. There are many ways in which we talk to our customers – different surveys and consultations that we use so that they feel they can have a say about what we are planning. We have customer insight services which underpin our customer service strategy. As you probably picked up, we have a diverse group of people who use the strategic road network and there’s a variety of ways that customers can get involved. The transport Focus that is one of our regulators have a strategic road user survey known as SRAS. It asks drivers about journeys they’ve taken in the last 4 weeks on our network. This reaches out to 21,000 customers each month. There are other more internal insights surveys called High View that compliment the SRAS survey but also asks people about their journey experience – it’s more detailed and more specific and flexible about the type oof journey they take.
We have customer panels and freight panels, and they are used to explore and understand responses to perhaps different types of signs we’ve set. We try to react to customer feedback that we get and that’s often from Transport Focus. We vary our campaign messages and the type of signs that we set so we get specific feedback and of course we use social media for real time feedback on particular incidents. There are lots of other ways of us receiving feedback – correspondence, people telephone the contact centre, and then also audits are undertaken to support the projects that are happening and IPSIS MORI undertake independent assessments where we have particular areas where complaints are high. We can look at how that project is working and make changes to support some of the feedback we get. In real time it’s important that people contact us through the contact centre and they will either deal with the enquiry or direct it to the right part of National Highways. If it's something bespoke to a particular project...
Sharon: I guess it’s really important to us that customers do contact us and give us their feedback and their thoughts and experiences so we can make a positive difference
Meryl: Absolutely, and of course we have our web-based services on the website where they can use ECHO, and this is fed directly to the projects – and we do get ECHO feedback about our Traffic England website that is used for real time information.
Sharon: One thing you mentioned earlier was engagement and language is important to National Highways – so why are road users referred to as customers?
Meryl: Principally we connect the country by maintaining and improving the SRN and we provide real time information about the network and we do this for the people that use it, so it’s a subtle difference from having a customer that walks into a shop but actually these are the customers of our network and sometimes they don’t have much choice in how else they travel – they have to travel on our network – so it’s important we let people know that we care about them, their journey and we have a key focus on keeping people safe.
Sharon: I think that would be reassuring to many people that use the road networks. You touched on signage and incidents in the network. Every year we still see many incidents involving drivers and roadworks so many of these we know are due to a combination of distraction, fatigue and fast speeds. When you see these incidents unfolding what should customers be doing to minimise the risk? How can we work together to reduce them?
Meryl: I think it’s important that road users pay attention to the signs – it’s very easy to drive past them and perhaps they’ve previously seen a sign they didn’t believe or didn’t think gave them the right message. The signs are there for a reason., They are triggered by the speed of traffic in the network and so it’s important that people take the time to slow down and think about what could be happening up ahead. We do consider how we design our traffic management to ensure that roadworks are easy to follow. It can be confusing but that is something we have worked to improve. In principle road users are asked to follow the speed limit when travelling through roadworks and that then leads to avoiding confusion and perhaps driving into someone who is in front of them, so it’s giving yourself space and time and giving the respect to other people, so they feel they have space and time and you’re not driving too close to the vehicle in front.
Sharon: You talked about your driving style. We know we are leaving Summer behind now and moving into Autumn driving conditions. How should we be driving in Autumn and Winter?
Meryl: We have the variance of heavy rain which create spray and impacts visibility and other times you have a very low sun that impacts your vision and how much you can see. Allow extra time for braking, leaving a good space between you and the vehicle in front, also checking that you have the correct lights. There are cars that have the lights that come on automatically – you may notice that some vehicles don’t have their lights on – because the light hasn’t quite triggered the lights to come on. It’s a simple thing to check yourself to manually put your lights on because iyou might not think about it, but they might not have. You’re not visible in your vehicle. Following the clock change you’re driving home in the dark, because of the time zones so make sure that you have actually checked your eyesight. It seems a strange thing to say, but suddenly you realise your sight has deteriorated, working with IT and things like that, so it’s important that you have regular check ups and you have the right support if your eyesight has deteriorated. The other one is to keep your windscreen clear when the sun is shining on it, as the inside of can be smudged so bear that in mind. These seem obvious but it’s amazing how many people don’t carry out these simple things that can make a real difference.
Sharon: I’ve heard car drivers comment about driving at night-time and the glare from other vehicle lights on their windscreen. In fact, I’ve heard many people say they have refused to drive in the dark because they feel safer not to do so
Meryl: Yes, that’s exactly right. I think the other impact is if you’re wearing contact lenses – so people need to change to wearing glasses, but these are simple things you can do.
Sharon: That’s a good tip. Meryl, have you got any other more top tips or requests for driving in autumn or winter?
Meryl: Yes there’s a few simple things to think about. Prepare your journey, look for travel updates, check your journey before you leave. Ensure your phone is charged – have a charger in the car – and that your phone has emergency contact numbers. The contact centre is one to have in there. Understanding what to do if you do breakdown – this information is on our website and there’s been a lot of adverts recently about what to do if you breakdown. Have your vehicle checked – tyres, wipers, windscreens and screen wash – that’s important when we come into the season of winter and I do have in my car a bag which has got a brightly coloured hi-vis jacket , a very old pair of walking boots because if you’re caught out and have to clamber over a safety barrier or stand at the side of the motorway it’s cold whatever the season and you may not be wearing the right shoes – it helps to have them in the back of your car. Make sure you’re fit to drive and you’re not tired or fatigued and my final ask would be – understand where you are on the network – don’t just rely on your satnav. I have these conversations with my children – if they were broken down, they wouldn’t know where they were – so understanding the place where you are going and where you are on the network and if anything should happen then at least you can alert someone.
Sharon: Meryl as someone who has experienced a blow out on my tyre and stood on the side of the motorway, I can support your top tip of a hi vis warm coat and sensible boots and knowing your location because that definitely helped me
Meryl: Yes and turn your mobile phone to vibrate so you can hear it if anyone is calling you as you might not hear it ring on the side of the motorway – it’s a hostile noisy environment.
Sharon: As you know, this is a series of podcasts and articles to celebrate successful women working in transport but to also showcase the diverse range of roles available to them – you’re co-chair of the leading women’s network and equality diversity and inclusion champion so I couldn’t possible let you go without asking you to tell us more about this and why it’s important to you.
Meryl: I am excited to say that very recently I became the co-chair and Amy Lynch who also works for National Highways shares that role with me, and Mel Clark set up the leading women network and she recently handed the baton to Amy and myself. We have done a lot of work over the last few years to raise our profile and we’re proud that in 2020 that we were winners of the employee network of the year. What I like is that we provide so many interesting forums and we talk about lots of different subjects ranging from looking after your health, keeping safe and also career development. We have a very diverse membership across National Highways and everyone enjoys sharing their experiences sharing their stories, and helping each other – it’s a good way of doing that – and during COVID we had lots of bitesize sessions through Teams – and talked about various subjects with invited speakers to share information – that was a great way to network but now we are delighted that we can meet face to face and we’re planning our next event which is on the 17th November and this is with a focus on the power of your brand. We are keen to broaden our links with similar networks across different organisations and we are learning and sharing resources. I am delighted to say that we have the support of our supply chain at this next event so we’re finalising the agenda – I feel very privileged to be involved in that and to lead a team of people who are supporting us and we hope to do some exciting things next year and plan for international women’s’ day in March.
Sharon: Meryl – that sounds like a great support network and community, and I will make an note of that and we may come back to you following next year’s International Women’s Day to see how you got on.
Meryl – thanks you so much for talking to us and sharing your story and top tips.For those of you who want to know more about Driving for Better Business and the benefits to managing and reducing your road risk, visit the website athttps://www.drivingforbetterbusiness.com

Friday Oct 14, 2022

Show Notes
Sadie Weston established Employ Recruitment in 2005. In this episode of the Women in Transport podcast she describes her journey of getting into recruitment and working in the logistics sector, and how she dedicated her career to changing the perception of HGV driver recruitment agencies through raising standards. We hear how she has realised her vision, creating a successful driving agency with 100% compliance at its core, and what she's learned along the way.
Useful Links
Employ Recruitmenthttps://www.employrecruitment.co.uk/
Driver Recruitment Softwarehttps://www.driverrecruitmentsoftware.com/
DfBB Women in Transport Podcast
Sharon: Welcome to the Driving for Better Business podcast celebrating women working in transport, fleet management, and road safety. Driving and riding for work presents one of the biggest risks to business and addressing those risks often involves fresh, new thinking. With me today is Sadie Weston who established Employ Recruitment in 2005.
Sadie, lovely to see you again and thank for you taking the time to chat with us today.Tell us about your journey of getting into recruitment and working in the logistics sector.
Sadie: I fell into a career into logistics before I even knew what it was. When I was 19, I started working for a specialist driving agency. Early on I saw first-hand the importance of compliance and safety following a major road traffic accident, so when I was about 21, I set off with all my new learnings and set up my own driving agency, Employ Recruitment, which specialises in the supply of logistics staff -mainly HGV drivers on a temporary basis to haulage companies.
Because of my attention to detail and desire for continuous improvement in standards I realised quite quickly that many driving agencies were not compliant and did not fulfil their obligations in terms of driver’s hours and working time directive despite all the legislation in place. I identified a need for change, and I wanted to do things differently. In 2005 I dedicated my career to change the perception of HGV driver recruitment agencies through raising standards. My vision back then was to create a successful driving agency with 100% compliance at its core and that’s been achieved in subsequent years.
When we began that was quite a challenge – we relied on a lot of manual processes to achieve the vision., I invited in all the legislative bodies I could think of to check our manual processes until they were sufficient. Culture was also really important from a young age and for the colleagues, the drivers, and the clients. We now have very well-established brand promises that focus around honesty, humility, and respect for everybody and what I found to be my greatest challenge when working in Employ was finding a piece of software that managed the process of driving recruitment from start to end with a focus on compliance.
It didn’t exist so I started to use a piece of software that met that requirement as closely as possible – then I went onto buy the company which is now a business in its own right know as DRS driver Recruitment software, a SAS platform that streamlines and automates the process of HGV driver recruitment end to end. The introduction of DRS into Employ eliminated the majority of manual processes, and it streamlined the business, achieving a 25% reduction in overheads, through automating the resourcing, the planning, compliance, finance and management information driving agencies rely so heavily on being accurate.
So going back to my earlier vision to improve the perception of logistics recruitment throughout the UK and seeing the results in Employ, in 2019 I went to offer DRS to other driving agencies and by that point I had a tried and tested proven solution which was Employ and DRS enabled Employ to double, reduce overheads and remain 100% compliant in real time which improves road safety and protects our drivers and customers.
Aside the businesses and in a bid to bring agencies and clients together for the greater good, I’m also the divisional director TEAM and hold a seat on the Logistics UK government group for driving agency excellence, and within these diverse roles I believe I’ve created an environment for collaboration to share best practice with other driving agencies – moving away from that stigma of keeping information under lock and key, and then later, with that collaboration we’ve been able to go to operators in a bid to align agency standards and margins and you’d be lucky to have a conversation with me where margins don’t crop up. They’re important. I understand that agencies work hard in a reactive role to meet the client requirements to ensure standards are aligned - agencies need a margin to reinvest to the same level as hauliers do in training staff systems and accreditations and so on. Since neutral vends entered the market place hauliers saw the opportunity to standardise low margins, in my opinion that only served to halt the progress of many driving agencies, and I would like to see an improvement in how we all work together so that the compliant agencies who are doing their very best are rewarded by being offered more work first and it no longer comes down to low margins, power or rebates.
Employ have been lucky enough to maintain these margins and benefited by being able to continually invest, and as a result some of the most recent initiatives this year, the introduction of crisis cover which provides access to transport lawyers in the event of blue light incidents, and e-learning for HGV drivers, a roadskills online driver benefits package, and a 12 month HGV driver specific wellbeing campaign, and I think that brings you right up to date Sharon.
Sharon: Our Driving for Better Business programme encourages and supports operators to look at what they do by evaluating their practices and taking the necessary steps to enhance their performance. You mentioned TEAM – can you share how it’s supported and benefited you as an employer but also those other members?
Sadie: TEAM stands for The Employment Agency Movement, and it’s split into different sectors. Speaking about the driving sector, it’s a really easy environment for driving agencies to come together and we have guest speakers, training specific to driving agencies, in fact I’m organising an event for the 3rd November to bring 50 driving agencies together to focus on what to outsource so we’ve got various suppliers tp pitch their product in 15 minutes and focus on what value that will give back to the driving agency – time, financial – so that agencies can focus on what they need to do best, which is really customer service to the drivers and the customers. They don’t need to get bogged down with admin processes. As well as the collaboration which is the best I have seen within the driver agency sector, there’s also shared resources, things like terms & conditions, there’s access to endless training and there’s a community. TEAM feels like a family in the industry – we’ve got a WhatsApp group so we can share problems, and someone is always there to help, and I would recommend any driving agency to consider joining.
Sharon: I know you’re always pushing the boundaries for improvement at Employ. Tell us about how ISO9001 and Investors in People have helped you.
Sadie: Over the years, I have signed Employ up for most things and we learnt an awful lot from Investors in People on culture, trust probably being the main thing – how to look after our people and in return we found that they bring a lot back to the business. Something I am prepared to touch on later is things like I employ a lot of working mums, so we wanted to look at the things that were suitable for working mums. Things like contributions to childcare, working hours and work from home which are not common in our industry which is male dominated as you know. To touch on ISO9001 that meant that we got a library of policies and procedures that informed our people how to run the business s in a consistent way.
Sharon: You touched on working mums, Over the years supporting and inspiring other women whether staff, drivers or clients is close to your heart. Why is that so important to you?
Sadie: I think that comes down to I would love to see more women in logistics. I stumbled on this industry, and I’m constantly impressed by the women I meet in the industry. I worked with a lot of men in the early days and some of those men taught me how not to do things and some inspired me, and I’ve had the privilege of working with many great women, one of whom is a coach I use, Claire Barnett, from Synergy who focus on coaching on organisational development and that put culture at the top of the list for me. I also work with some excellent women these days – Leslie O’Brian of New Aura and Charlotte Le Maire – both are very inspiring – they’re on the same mission that I am on. They want to see improvement for HGV drivers and road safety. That’s really where I’d like to see the whole industry going. Women – logistics is the perfect industry for women. Women have a very detailed understanding into their subject matter and tend to remember quite a lot, to the pain of our partners from time to time, and we are able to provide tangible data for improvement.
I would love to see more women in the industry. I’ve employed around 40 women in my time at Employ and at DRS, often in their first job in transport and we’ve had a high commitment to their training from great companies like the RAC and Logistics UK, wellbeing coaches, and now a lot of those women have stayed in the industry which is really important, and gone on to hold really important roles in the industry.
Sharon: You fell into this industry by accident. How can we showcase and promote the diverse roles that are available. What more could we do in schools and universities to raise awareness?
Sadie: Something that I do – I think we’ve all got to do our bit - so on occasion I go into schools and talk about my career in logistics and what that has looked like and the various opportunities.
I think school is a crucial starting point, and something that impressed me yesterday, my son is about to choose his options and he came home having answered 100 questions online which had populated his career options and based on his strengths and preferences I was pleased to see that ‘logistics manager’ came up as his 3rd recommended job role. When we were at school, we had an hour with a career’s advisor, and logistics was unheard of, so to see that difference now days is really positive.
Sharon: I’ve got to say I had an hour as you said, I said I wanted to work in logistics and they told me the only job ever available would be a driver, and to go and find something else to do and come back when I was 21. That was my careers advice.
Sadie: That’s shocking – how did you know what you wanted to work in?
Sharon: It was a family thing for me so many of my holidays were spent in a vehicle map planning! Any professional fleet operator will want to ensure that all their drivers – whether temporary or fully-employed – they are driving safely and responsibly – so there are thousands of recruitment businesses out there, and they do not all work to the same standards which unfortunately does have an impact on road safety.
What are the key areas that you would recommend a fleet operator to explore when looking to engage with a new agency, to they know there is no negative impact to their compliance, operator licence and safety standards?
Sadie: I think that stems from the set-up meeting that’s held. I’d be looking for an agency that goes through rigorous set up, who want to know all about the day in the life of a driver working for that operator, about the insurances - how long must the driver have held a licence? How many penalty points, what type of induction is available - and you want your agencies pushing for that information. If the agency starts to supply blind, I would question the service you’re going to get.
Something else I would look for is accreditations – something I’m passionate about is the Logistics Driver Agency Excellence Scheme. It’s the only audit that really audits the agency on their processes for driver engagement and management - and so a bit about the audit – the audit looks at the core business standards – terms of engagement, insurances, staff training and policies and then it’s also looking at driver recruitment standards. Is the agency obtaining the right identification for right to work? Qualifications? Are they adhering to the clients’ requirements in terms of insurance, pay parity and then things like driver management standards so collective / workforce agreements, working time directive management of the EU Driver hours and how the agency are confirming the shifts and planning these drivers that they are not seeing day to day. For me the biggest tick an operator could look for would be a demonstration of those robust processes through the driver agency excellence accreditation. Of course, you may wish to create your own audit which I would recommend and audit your agencies against your own processes.
Sharon: From what you’re saying, you’d always recommend that operator going to meet with the agency and seeing the processes in place – back-office - to support the operations.
Sadie: Where possible yes, it’s not always practical but nowadays we can jump on Teams from wherever in the country and I would have a specific list of things that are important to the operator, and I would be asking the agency to evidence those processes through a meeting.
Sharon: The last 2 years has seen many obstacles within the industry - the pandemic and driver shortage to name just two. How do you think these have changed the operator’s perception of temporary workers and the flexibility they provide to support an operation?
Sadie: Yes, I really do – I think for a long time, agencies were seen as a necessary evil by many - agencies and agency drivers – treated like 2nd class citizens and information wasn’t shared properly on processes and then as soon as something went wrong the agency were beaten up for it or the driver was banned, and really there was no partnership. In many cases it felt like a dictatorship – I’ve walked away from a number of clients for that reason so things like lead vend models and the legislation like AWR and pay parity went some way to redefining the relationship, but that put further pressure on margins which was a negative thing for driving agencies to progress and I think now the value of agencies and their drivers has been redefined by the driver shortage. We’ve seen more operators looking at more sustainable partnerships with aligned objectives. It no longer comes down to just money and who can supply the most drivers. We see senior members of our customers collaborating with the agencies as respected partners for the greater good. I know more recently we have been asked to support in understanding the neutral vend model which resulted in fairer calculations for the agency charge rate. I honestly feel there’s a long way to go. Some agencies are working below standard for compliance and service – but operators are embracing the contribution of a good agency and seem to understand that partnership is key to a successful supply relationship. I hope along the way we can bump the standards up of many more driving agencies in the UK.
Sharon: From a recruitment point iof view, how important is it for drivers to get a thorough induction, familiarisation, training. when they start with a new operator?
Sadie: Absolutely crucial. Some can be done through automation – things like video inductions work in the absence of someone being able to be there to induct the driver. It’s always better if there’s a full site induction and familiarisation with the standard operating procedures, and a driving assessment as well because it’s not reasonable to expect the agency to be able to assess their own drivers, certainly not on lower margin contracts, so it’s crucial the drivers have a walk through the SOPs.
Sharon: Sadie, thank you so much for talking to us and sharing your story and your insights as well as your best practice with us today.For those of you who want to know more about Driving for Better Business and the benefits to managing and reducing your road risk, visit the website athttps://www.drivingforbetterbusiness.com

Thursday Sep 22, 2022

Show Notes
Some areas of fleet management are highly regulated but that doesn’t always mean that these fleets are managed well. Today, I’m thrilled to be joined by Sarah Bell, Traffic Commissioner for London and the South East, to discuss some the common failures seen regularly at operator level and what it looks like to be a good operator.
Useful Links
Information about Traffic Commissionershttps://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/traffic-commissioners
Traffic Commissioner's Twitterhttps://twitter.com/TrafficCommsGB
Sign up to receive news alerts from the Traffic Commissionershttps://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/UKOTC/subscriber/new
DfBB Women in Transport Podcast
Anne-Marie: Welcome to the Driving for Better Business podcast celebrating women working in transport, fleet management, and road safety. Now, some areas of fleet management are highly regulated but that doesn’t always mean that these fleets are managed well. Today, I’m thrilled to be joined by Sarah Bell, Traffic Commissioner for London and the South East.Sarah, welcome to the Driving for Better Business podcast. You’ve had over 20 years of working with the transport industry and now as a Traffic Commissioner. How did your career develop?
Sarah: First of all Anne-Marie thank you for inviting me, following Jo Shiner – difficult footsteps to follow but I’ll do my best. My career... developed is probably too sophisticated a word for it. It flowed, really. I qualified as a solicitor in 1993, with a regional practice down on the South Coast. I stayed with them until 1995, but then I wanted to get into commercial litigation but there were no positions there, so I went elsewhere. And bizarrely I ended up doing maritime litigation as well as commercial litigation. So, for example, marine accident investigations, helping their clients weave their way through the interviews, etcetera. And then also defending health and safety executive prosecutions for their clients. And so it was regulatory as well as litigation – which is not something which I had originally signed up to. But then the opportunity came for me to take that back to the firm where I had originally trained, which was lovely because I hadn’t actually particularly wanted to leave in the first place, it was just that there wasn’t the sort of role that I had wanted. And we developed a wider regulatory practice. They already were RHA panel solicitors, so I started doing that work with them – so representing operators, transport managers and drivers before my predecessors as traffic commissioners, and also in the criminal courts. But at the same time, I moved from defending HSE prosecutions which I had done at my previous firm, to actually prosecuting as a solicitor agent for the Health and Safety Executive. So I have – as they say - played on both sides of the fence. I’m a prosecutor and a defence solicitor by expertise. But then in 2006 I was approached by the recruitment consultants that were in charge of recruiting the new traffic commissioner for the West of England. And they said, “why haven’t you applied?” and I said I didn’t know that Phillip was retiring – which was a big faux pas as he wasn’t retiring, just moving London and the South East. And so that’s how I ended up being a traffic commissioner.
Anne-Marie: Fantastic, so your experience – on both sides of the fence – has been quite broad. And you mentioned, you joined the West of England as Traffic Commissioner and now you’re the responsible for the South East. What are the responsibilities of a traffic commissioner?
Sarah: They are wide and varied. First of all we don’t sort out anyone’s parking tickets, unfortunately, which is what most people think if they don’t know about regulation of commercial vehicles. What we actually do is we regulate the bus, coach and haulage industry, and their vocational drivers. There are eight traffic commissioners regionally, there’s one traffic commissioner for Scotland – Claire Gilmour, one traffic commissioner for Wales – that’s Victoria Davies. And then the other regions. And, we look at commercial vehicle businesses and their drivers – and it is from cradle to grave. So, if you want to operate a one-man or one-lady scaffold business, or if you want to be the next Eddie Stobart, you need an operator’s licence. And that licence tells you where you can operate from, how many vehicles you can operate, how many trailers you can operate. And you have to tell us what your safety regime is going to be. Similarly with vocational drivers. Whether it’s lorries, or it’s buses and coaches – from your very first provisional right through to your retirement – whether you are able to hold that entitlement and whether you keep it depends on your driving and your approach to safety, and we regulate all of that as well.
Anne-Marie: Excellent. So your role is not to go searching for wrongdoing, but to arbitrate on allegations when they are reported. How are most inquiries reported, are there specific triggers?
Sarah: So the undertakings on the operator’s licence are all focused on the roadworthiness of vehicles, and the drivers being safe. Because, as we know, a lorry in the wrong hands is a lethal weapon. And, there are a lot of systems that we expect them to have in place, so obviously the lorries and coaches have their tachographs in... that’s not enough. We expect there to be regular downloading within the maximum timescales under the legislations. But not only downloaded – we expect it to be analysed. Have there been drivers’ hour infringements? Has there be driving off card? They have to the systems in place – likewise with the undertakings in relations to maintenance. They have to tell us how frequently they are going to have their vehicles inspected. How frequently they are going to have their trailers inspected. Who is going to be doing those inspections? And so, the inquiries flow from the success or failures of those systems. And most of the reports we receive are from the DVSA - Driving Vehicle Standards Agency – I refer to them as the Department for Transport’s commercial vehicle enforcement officers. And also, but less so, the police. With the police it depends more on the traffic area; some have more commercial vehicle police units than others. Obviously, I’m incredibly lucky in London and the South East because I have the Met, and the City of London, and I see a huge number of referrals from them. We also get referrals from the Health and Safety Executive, and the Environment Agency, because our regime is safety focused. And it’s not just about how do you run your transport, it’s what’s your approach to safety? So if there’s been a health and safety... not even prosecution... even if it’s an enforcement notice and it’s not been complied with. Or if there’s an Environment Agency prosecution. Then, we are told about those and the operator can be called in, with the transport manager, to consider their good repute.
Anne-Marie: Excellent thank you – that’s really insightful and I’ve learnt some things that I didn’t know there. So, what are the common failures at any operator level that you see regularly, and is this through ignorance, inexperience or lack of care? What do you see on a regular basis?
Sarah: Well I’ve been doing this since 2007. And unfortunately, I keep seeing the same stories, just different people. Ignorance... ignorance is interesting. Because, when you sign up for a licence, the form is online now, and it’s about 18 pages. So it’s not like how it used to be, when you’d go to the tax desk. You are making a whole heap of promises that you know what you’re doing, and that you already will have the systems in place from day one. And there’s an appeal court case called MGM Haulage and Recycling 2012/030... not that I use it very much. And that said that operators, transport managers and applicants are deemed to know all the advice and guidance in the public domain. And it’s vast. So there’s all the Senior Traffic Commissioner statutory documents. There’s all the DVSA documents – such as the Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness, Careless Talk Costs Lives, all the drivers’ hours... so ignorance is probably limited. Not as limited as it should be, but limited. In experience, we have what we call a gatekeeper role about who we let in, who gets a licence. And that’s not just about “have they got convictions” etc., it is about the individual, the company, and how are they going to get it right first time. So you can be inexperienced, but you still have to have the systems in place to make sure that the business is experienced. And one of our favourite sayings also is ‘never mistake experience for expertise’. Because sometimes it’s the experience that has got in the way, because they’re still doing things the way they’ve always been done. Lack of care when managing the health and safety of vehicles and their drivers - absolutely that’s the key. That is what we see the most. There may be a system in place, but it’s not been reviewed. There may be a system in place, but it has fallen to the wayside because there’s been a change in personnel. And the worst one of all, where commercial need is put ahead of compliance. And those are the themes, really.
Anne-Marie: Thank you, Sarah. I’d like to talk a little bit about the van sector as well – because vans, as you know, are not regulated in the same way. There are over 600,000 trucks on our roads, 75,000 buses. But this is dwarfed by the van sector and that has been increasing in past years. There are more than 4.8m vans on our roads now. Do you think they should be managed in the same way as trucks, and would regulation of vans be a useful step?
Sarah: It’s interesting isn’t it, Anne-Marie. Because they’re not unregulated, they just don’t have this figurehead stick to beat them with, as some like to say about traffic commissioners. Section 2, section 3, section 7 of the Health and Safety traffic laws... they all still apply. And I don’t think it’s really for me to say that they should be or not – I’ll probably get into trouble if I expressed a personal opinion. What I would say is there’s lots of excellent schemes around, including the work that Driving for Better Business does... the Trade Associations etcetera. And those who want to do well, and those who want to look after their people, and those who want to be safe, will seek you out. And they will join, and they will be engaged. And the challenge, I think, for the van sector, is the same as we actually have for the haulage, bus and coach sector – which is how do you reach those that don’t want to be reached? Because there are those that still are under the radar, who keep of the strategic road network, who run under the radar. And they’re the ones who are the challenge. And you’ll have that whether they’re regulated more akin to the Traffic Commissioner Operator Licensing regime... in any event. Does that make sense?
Anne-Marie: That makes absolute sense. And there is commonality regardless of which vehicle you drive or ride. We’re all humans – the people operating those vehicles – affected by the same problems. Fatigue isn’t different just because you’re not driving a truck, and you don’t have a tachograph in your vehicle, for example. There are some standards that absolutely should be applied across the piece – and if you’re good at managing your trucks, you could be good at managing your vans. Because you’d apply the same principles of that high standard.
Sarah: Yeah, and Anne-Marie you’ve absolutely hit the nail on the head, because obviously we regulate a lot of companies that run a mixed fleet. And we say – how you run your vans should be entirely akin to how you run your lorries. And I have done a public inquiry where they run truck fleet brilliantly – to the point of exemplar. But their smaller vehicles, and the company that they subcontracted with, were regularly overloading the smaller vehicles. And I called them into public inquiry. It’s all about safety.
Anne-Marie: Absolutely. Traffic commissioners work closely with enforcement agencies – and I think you mentioned DVSA earlier – and most recently have contributed to the Roads Policing Review. How has this collaboration improved safety on our roads?
Sarah: I have to say, you’ve hit the nail on the head with my favourite subject at the moment, which is the Roads Policing Review. It is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make real change on our roads. Although it’s called the Roads Policing Review, it has merged into something wider, in that it is looking at other enforcement agencies, particularly with commercial vehicles, and the role of the DVSA. And it’s about having joined-up enforcement, and also joined-up education. So, the standards that the police work to would be the same as the standards that the DVSA work to – so one would be upskilling the other. Because obviously the DVSA spend all of their time on the very highly technical side of commercial vehicle regulation, whereas the commercial police still have their other role to do as well. Both see education as key, both see enforcement as key, both see referral to prosecution and traffic commissioners as key. But what we’re looking at is joining up those processes, so that everything comes through to actually be triaged, and so if it’s for education it goes to education, if its serious it goes to prosecution or the traffic commissioners, and that will be the same whether you are stopped in Eccles, in Bodmin, or London, or Birmingham. There will be one rulebook, one uniformity of approach. And it will – I hope – raise awareness, both roadside and online, that there is only one way to run your business, or to drive your own car. And that is as an exemplar. Because you will be found out – that’s what I hope. I think it’s a real opportunity. You know, we have 44 police forces. So 44 different ways that I might receive information – a lot of them don’t even know who a traffic commissioner is. I don’t want vehicles being stopped and it being dealt with at the roadside with the driver, and left at that. Because very often, it is not the driver that is the problem. And there was a stat a few years ago, and it came through a Highways England collaboration piece, that the police had done 30,000 stops and issued 31,000 prohibitions. And that’s brilliant, that’s absolutely fantastic, that’s what we want. But what happened next? Was their follow-up with the operator in the appropriate case etc.? This whole Roads Policing Review is looking at that and everybody’s involved. And I just love it, it’s really exciting.
Anne-Marie: That’s really useful to know, because I think as a program, Driving for Better Business would love to follow up on that work, and actually do a big communication piece around that, so people are aware, and they do know. At the end of the day, we don’t want people to fail. We want operators to be good and be understanding of what they need to do, and to be able to take action to remedy stuff that goes wrong for them. So my final question for you, Sarah, is a very simple one. What does a good operator look like to you?
Sarah: If I could bottle that up, I’d be a billionaire! It’s not about the nuts and bolts – forgive the pun. I think, from what I have seen before I was a traffic commissioner, advising companies and their staff, really it is that the culture of an organisation comes from its leadership. If you bring rigour and openness to all of your systems; you don’t design systems around the bare minimum; you don’t mistake experience for expertise; and you invest in your people and your safety regimes – that is what ‘good’ looks like. And I say it time and again, when I see operators in public inquiry in front of me, I say: compliance pays dividends, literally. If you’re having your vehicles regularly inspected, they break down less. If you invest in your people, and you check on them – not just 9 to 5, but you look at how they present at work before they even start – do they look well? Do they look concerned? Do they look tired? You should have systems all around that. If you look after your people, you look after your wagons... it will pay.
Anne-Marie: Sarah, that was brilliant. A lovely way to end this podcast. Thank you so much for joining us.
Sarah: Thank you for inviting me, I’ve really enjoyed it Anne-Marie – it’s always a pleasure to talk to you.
Anne-Marie: Thanks Sarah. And, if you’d like more information on Sarah’s interview, and links that we mentioned in the course of our conversation, visit drivingforbetterbusiness.com.

Friday Aug 26, 2022

Show Notes
"The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in the UK is the home of the profession – so people who are working in the industry of transport and logistics and supply chains at any level have got somewhere they can come to be part of the community... we can support them through their career development.We like to think that anyone can come to us and ask us any question, and we’ll give them good, neutral advice based on the facts."Sharon Kindleysides, Chief Executive Officer of CILT(UK)
Useful Links
Generation Logisticshttps://generationlogistics.org/
Upcoming Events
The Transport & Logistics Safety Forum Annual Conference, 8th November 2022Event summary - CILT(UK) (ciltuk.org.uk)
The Women in Logistics Conference, 13th October 2022Event summary - CILT(UK) (ciltuk.org.uk)
CILT programmes to support Learners:
Aspire is the Charitable arm of the CILT which supports people with training cost to progress within the profession:CILT(UK) > Aspire (ciltuk.org.uk)
Novus which is a programme to support those wishing to undertake University Studies is here:Homepage - Novus
DfBB Women in Transport Podcast
Welcome to the Driving for Better Business podcast celebrating women working in transport, fleet management, and road safety.  The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport was first established in 1919.  Their vision is “a transport, logistics, operations and supply chain profession, recognised and celebrated for its quality, expertise, and value”, and I’m delighted to welcome their Chief Executive, Sharon Kindleysides.
Sharon, welcome to the Driving for Better Business podcast.  Can you tell me more about the purpose of the Institute?
Yes, hello Anne-Marie, thanks for inviting me. I think the institute is the home of the profession – so people who are working in the industry of transport and logistics and supply chains at any level have got somewhere they can come to be part of the community. We are a chartered body so people that wish to go that way we can support them through their career development. We also offer training for individuals and organisations, and advice. We like to think that anyone can come to us and ask us any question, and we’ll give them good, neutral advice based on the facts. We have an amazing learning centres so if anyone’s doing any research they’re welcome to come and see that too.
Fantastic. How big is the institute, how many members do you have?
Well, we’ve got roughly 13,000 members in the UK and we’ve got about 170 corporate members, where we work closely with them - but we mainly hear from the individuals. And they range from people at the start of their career right to the top fellows who’ve been doing great service. And I wrote a letter last week to somebody who has been a member for over 50 years.
Wow, so there’s a real depth and breadth to the membership then.
Absolutely, and it’s just so valuable, particularly for our younger members. If they’ve ever got a question, there’s bound to be someone in the organisation who is senior and can offer advice. And I think that’s what’s really good when we go to places like a conference. People learn from each other.
Brilliant. Now, your appointment as CEO of CILT is quite recent and you’ve had over 19 years leadership experience in the sector.  What do you see as the priorities for the sector at this point?
Yes, as you said I have been in the industry for some time now. I took over the job roughly three months ago. I think it’s quite a key time for the profession. I’ve noticed it’s pretty much every morning there’s a news article that’s something to do with the supply chain or transport or driving or the fuel crisis – various things along those lines. So at the moment we’ve really got a stage to talk about ourselves. The key priority for me is making more people aware of the profession. Approximately 4% of all jobs in the UK are in logistics. We’ve got young people who just got exam results and are wondering what to do with their careers. My priority is to say look – this is an amazing, vibrant, passionate industry with jobs in all manner of things you’ve maybe never heard of, so come and find out what we do. So I want to make the profession, or the sector, attractive and appealing – so that when somebody is thinking about what job to do, they don’t turn their nose up and say “oh, I don’t want to do that”. I want them to think “wow, that’s truly amazing, I can go and be part of something massive”. And without our industry and things being transported, there’d be nothing in the shops. We’d pretty much be sitting here naked. So it’s so intrinsic to everything we do in the country – so I want everyone to feel as excited about it as I am really.
That’s really interesting – I didn’t realise just how much of our daily life involves someone working in transport and the logistics sector. We need, now more than ever, to grow this sector. How is Generation Logistics encouraging people into the sector?
We’re doing a lot of things. We offer a mentoring scheme. We’ve actually got a couple of organisations we support who encourage people right at the start of their career, who might not be able to pay their own way through a qualification, to actually go to university or do a more practical course. So we’re really trying to get in at the start of these things. We’ve got an organisation called Think Logistics who help support schools. So we’re trying to make people aware of the whole industry and the scope. So when they become a student, or when they’re an apprentice, we offer them training and professional development. We just offer them a place where they can come and find out more, and choose their own career path. They know we’re going to support them all the way through. And, we offer mentoring. So if anyone comes to us and wants to mentor or be a mentoree, we try to link them up.
That sounds excellent. It’s a good thing to support young people. I’m glad I’m not young anymore because I’m not sure which way I’d go to get a job! But this sounds like a brilliant scheme to encourage more people into the sector itself. You mentioned technology – it’s advancing considerably, and we’ve seen significant developments in autonomous vehicles. What are the challenges this brings, and how far away are we from truly, fully autonomous vehicles?
I mean, there are fully autonomous vehicles in trials around the world. The technology itself is very well developed. One of the views I have of it is that it’s a bit like a fashion show. People go to Paris and see the most amazing outfits, and then possibly a colour, or a design, or a belt they’ve seen makes its way into the supermarket or a high street store. And then with autonomous vehicles, every new version of a car that comes out has learnt something from autonomous vehicles – from headlines that dip and raise themselves, to sensors that tell you if you’re about to leave the lane. So I think we’re seeing cars get a lot more intelligent. There’s certainly a number of applications that I think will be really beneficial. Somebody once said that the first time you get in an autonomous vehicle, it’s not going to be 5 o’clock going around the M25. It’s going to be in a constrained environment. I think what’s going to be really valuable is things like out-of-hours and remote public transport – for example, to help shift workers get to and from work – maybe there’s an autonomous vehicle that takes you to an out-of-town car park, where you could park your car to avoid congestion. Maybe it’s around a hospital or a university campus. I think the first place we’ll really see autonomous vehicles in full blown running and being useful is going to be in these limited environments. I think we’ll also see them in agriculture, and even maritime, where there is again this constrained environment – there’s nothing to stop, say, a completely autonomous combine harvester harvesting a field. Or in a shunting yard of hauliers, just moving trailer units made for B to C. That could be fully autonomous. It’s going to be a long time before we see them in the city centre. But what they can bring is this technology, particularly the safety features, into normal cars. So that the cars that are on the normal road at the moment have got these safety features built in. That’s always been one of the key selling points of autonomous vehicles – the number of accidents due to human error – because if you can reduce the human interaction, then you can also reduce the number of accidents. I think it will be slow progress, but there’ll be certainly applications where we’ll see fully autonomous vehicles a lot quicker than in other areas.
Thanks Sharon. That’s actually really useful, you’ve mentioned quite a few things there that I hadn’t considered. Especially the agricultural and maritime perspective. There are huge applications now. That’s fascinating. Moving on, there is also much discussion as well about Intelligent Transport Systems.  Can you explain what is meant by that and what are the benefits and downsides for road users?
I’ve always thought there’s a slightly bad choice of words there, because it suggests there are non-intelligent transport systems as well. Which we don’t mean at all. But for me, it’s applying data, and the use of data and technology, to the normal transport systems that we use day-in, day-out. And the most basic application that nobody really thinks about is that we’ve got traffic lights that change, we’ve got a vehicle waiting and a vehicle queue. So that is an intelligent transport system, it’s using a sensor, it’s taking information, it’s changing the traffic lights. And as technology progresses and we get a lot more data from ANPR cameras, numberplate cameras, from people just having mobile phones in their car… everyone’s heard of Google Maps. We’re getting such a vast amount of data, that intelligent transport systems can take and use. […] We certainly saw during the first lockdown of the pandemic that we were getting daily updates about traffic figures and they were coming from this data and these figures. But is also gives planners to react in real time, if congestion starts building up, and they can possibly divert people to route B. So, at the highest level, it just gives us a better way of managing the road network. You can set targets to manage the road network to reduce congestion, improve journey times, improve air quality… there’s a raft of things to use it for. And you can also make sure that enforcement can be cleverer. For example, there have been systems around schools and in 20mph zones, where the speed limit is only there during school hours, so by using the intelligent transport system connected to the cameras, and effectively a clock, you can make sure that people are only penalised because they actually did break the rule at say 3pm at school picking up time. So you can be clever and selective. And I think that makes these enforcement measures a lot more palatable to drivers because you know it was fair – you were caught doing something you shouldn’t have, not when the school wasn’t there. So I think there are many applications, and we’ve all seen journey time systems on the motorway telling us how long until the next junction. That helps. There’s nothing worse than being in a traffic jam not knowing how long it’s going to take you to get home. So I think that reduces some of the stress of driving. For downsides, older vehicles may not have all of the technology and information that can tell you how to get to the next traffic light on green, and things like that. So perhaps older vehicles won’t have that. We don’t want to distract drivers, you know, there’s cars now that look like space shuttles with so many warnings and alerts and you really don’t want to distract the driver. So some of it is that you don’t want to deskill the driver. We want them to still be driving the vehicle and paying attention. So there’s got to be a balance there between how you use the technology. And I’ve noticed myself, I’ve got lane-keeping assist on my car, but I live relatively rurally. And we have a lot of marks on the road that aren’t white lines, and the car does sometimes try and persuade me to drive along something that isn’t a white line. So we have to be careful about the application, and make sure when new drivers are starting to learn and get this technology in the car, they’re prepared for how it’s going to change their driving style, and what they’re going to have to do to drive these more intelligent vehicles.
Thanks Sharon, I think that’s a really important consideration – that when technology advances, especially in vehicles, that we have to bear in mind is that sometimes there’s a trade-off, and so safety must be paramount. We can have as many technological advances as we like, but if safety is worse, then we’ve got a problem. So I think there are many opportunities to collaborate cross-sector, between vehicle manufacturers, road users, highway authorities… There’s a really good future for improving travel, and how we travel under less-stress on our roads.
When I was back in school, I took motor mechanics, wood and metal work, and technical drawing instead of sewing and cooking.  It did raise a few eyebrows as girls generally didn’t take those subjects!  Transport and logistics have been quite male dominated in the past but there are many more women now in the sector. How is the CILT supporting them?
I’ve got a similar story. When I was choosing my A-Levels, a friend and I decided that we were both going to be engineers, and we both decided to ask our schools could we please do technical drawing. And my school was very kind and progressive and modern and said “yes, of course you can”. So they were deeply supportive, and think without that support at the time there was no way I would have become an engineer. Nobody told me I can’t do it. I think today, we have to make the industry seem attractive, and really make people aware of the opportunities. I think a lot of transport-related jobs are not necessarily strict 9-to-5s. So they do fit in well to other responsibilities – it’s not just women who have caring responsibilities. Anyone can have caring responsibilities. So I think the industry itself is really geared up for that flexible work environment. But again, we’re not very good at talking about it. As I mentioned, we have the CILT mentoring programme, but we also have a Women in Logistics forum, which is an amazing forum where women and gentlemen and non-binary people can come together to talk about transport issues, in a safe environment. But you know, we’re always thinking about what’s in it for women, but also promoting our younger ladies as they come through and giving them a good platform where they can learn to speak in a professional environment where it’s friendly and supportive. And we’ve actually got our Annual Conference on the 13th October, so I would encourage anybody to come along and attend, and I’m really keen that if you have a young colleague who might want to come, bring them along, or if you know a younger person who wants to come, get in touch with us so we can be welcoming when they get there so they’re not walking into a room of strangers. Because that’s intimidating however old you are. And sometimes it’s nice to have somebody looking out for you and being aware of you. And at our Annual Conference that was held earlier this year, we took a younger member of the organisation, a lady called Rebecca Hicks, and invited her to chair the entire conference. And we supported her through that. But it was just to really make people aware that we’ve got this younger generation coming out, these really amazing women who are coming through. And if you can’t see it, you can’t be it. So we’re really keen to get out there and show who we are and what we stand for. And as a lady myself I’m really keen that everyone sees me and realises they can do pretty much whatever they want. I’m the first female Chief Executive of the CILT and I hope there are many more to come. I’m absolutely passionate that we make the Institute welcoming and supportive for everyone – and in that way make it good for women and make it good for everybody. So, that’s something I’m very keen about and I would encourage anybody to come along to our Women in Logistics group or even just join the forum online and see what we’re about.
I love that comment, that if we make it good for women we can make it good for everybody. I think that’s brilliant. It is about that level playing field, that everybody can be part of something. Looking back at your 18-year-old self, what one thing would you like to say to her?
Well I would have liked to have said you should buy Bitcoin! But failing that I was thinking about this question, and I think something I thought about relatively recently is to be confident, and bring your authentic self to work. I do remember when I was in my late 20s I had a child, a relatively young baby. I didn’t tell the company I went to work for that I had a child, because I thought in some way that they’d feel less of me, or wouldn’t trust me, or wouldn’t give me a job. And also I think I have some neurodiverse issues and to be honest and open about that and open about mental health – it’s really hard. And it’s only something that I’ve become comfortable with in the last few years. And I thank a lot of younger people who have helped with that, they’re on social media, they’re talking about their own challenges. And it’s taken a lot for me and my generation to come out and say things. I have mental health problems, it’s ok. It’s ok not to be ok. And that’s something I’m really grateful to the younger generations for. So to my 15 year old self I’d say be confident being your authentic self at work.
Thank you, Sharon it’s been brilliant talking, to you and getting information on the CILT.
For those of you who want to know more about Driving for Better Business and the benefits to managing and reducing your road risk take a look at the website at https://www.drivingforbetterbusiness.com

Tuesday Jul 26, 2022

Show notes
"It’s really interesting that almost 6 people a day die on our roads in this country and yet there is not in my opinion a loud enough outcry around that. I find it completely unacceptable that here is that level of death, trauma and tragedy and all those families who live on without their loved one."
Jo Shiner, Chief Constable of Sussex, and is the roads policing lead on the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) talks about her role and how collaboration is essential to the success of roads policing strategy.
Useful Links
Sussex Police
National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC)
OK9 - police dog welfare programme
DfBB Women in Transport Podcast: Jo Shiner - Chief Constable, Sussex Police
Anne-Marie: Welcome to the Driving for Better Business podcast celebrating women working in transport, fleet management, and road safety.  Driving and riding for work presents one of the biggest risks that businesses need to address.  Employers have a duty of care responsibility, and managing this risk requires employers to ensure the company must not do anything that puts their drivers or riders at risk and that the company’s work-related driving activities must not endanger other road users.  I’m delighted that Chief Constable Jo Shiner from Sussex Police is joining me today.
Chief Constable Shiner, a very warm welcome to the Driving for Better Business podcast.  Your policing career has spanned nearly three decades of public service.  What drew you to joining the police?
CC Shiner: Truly it was to make a difference. I know a number of people say that, but it really was. Our family went through a really difficult experience when my father was killed when I was a teenager – on the roads – and I did talk about it to bring that lived experience to the roads policing portfolio. After that experience I knew I could probably make a difference and so policing was quite a natural choice for me.
Anne-Marie: Thanks Jo. That’s really interesting. A lot of our passionate ways of dealing with issues comes from experience. You’ve served in three forces, Norfolk, Kent and now Sussex which are all quite distinct.  How important has collaboration and partnership been to keeping communities and people safe?
CC Shiner: I’m a true believer that in order to make a difference we absolutely have to work together for the road policing strategy together because we all bring very different elements to that. Whether or not it’s road furniture, enforcing speed, education – whatever it is about making our roads safer, unless we work in collaboration and partnership then actually it would be virtually impossible to make our communities – particularly our roads and everyone who uses them – which is virtually everybody – to keep them safe.
Anne-Marie: Within the National Police Chiefs’ Council, you currently hold the portfolio for Roads Policing.  The value of roads policing is considerable and often underrated and unappreciated?  How significant is the role in preventing harm?
CC Shiner: It’s really interesting that almost 6 people day die on our roads in this country and yet there is not in my opinion a loud enough outcry around that. I find it completely unacceptable that there is that level of death, trauma and tragedy and all those families who live on without their loved one. Or those people have been significantly injured in those collisions and therefore their lives have changed forever - so this portfolio assists with trying to draw the attention to road policing, make sure it’s more amplified in terms of when people are thinking about our wider communities and also appreciate the role that every single person has in  making those roads safer and therefore reducing the number of people who are killed and seriously injured because everyone has a role in that. I’m a huge believer that people must take responsibility for their own actions – so either when they get behind the wheel of a vehicle, or a pedal cycle or a horse or when they are a pedestrian there is an incumbent responsibility to look after those people around us. To drive carefully, to keep an eye out when we are walking, to be road savvy when you’re cycling. That personal responsibility sits on everybody who uses the roads and if we all respect that and take that a bit more seriously I do think we can make our roads safer and that’s what we are trying to amplify within this portfolio.
Anne-Marie: I absolutely agree, Jo from being involved in a life-threatening collision myself many years ago which was my route into road safety I can see the ripples of how it damages communities when just a single person is hurt or injured or killed d on the road – and we can do more working together and taking that responsibility for ourselves.
I’d like to think about the traffic officers now that actually deal with the incidents.  What has been your experience in Roads Policing from time spent in the specialism to how the welfare of officers who have witnessed or had to deal with serious incidents is managed?
CC Shiner: I think welfare generally and I’ll talk across policing but of course for every collision there are many more emergency services and people who are impacted by that. I think it has improved – do I think it’s good enough yet? Probably not. There isn’t level of appreciation of exactly what our emergency services and frontline workers see ad experience when they go to those collisions – sometimes those scenes can be absolutely traumatic. Because we’re seeing post covid a rise in the number of killed and seriously injured collisions, they are difficult to deal with, one of the main thrusts of our strategy is about making sure that we don’t forget those people who have to deal with this day in day out. One of my other national roles is as the ambassador for Oscar Kilo 9 wellbeing dogs. That’s a national policing charity all about wellbeing of our officers & front-line staff and other staff of course across policing. I’m really proud of what we have done around wellbeing dogs because that’s one small way when there are people who have experienced this trauma at an incident we will try and get wellbeing dogs to them very shortly after that because we know it actually helps to talk through what’s happened and it’s a real bonus of wellbeing, but we still have way to go with it
Anne-Marie: All emergency services have to deal with traumatic events, and they are human beings, and they have the same feelings and concerns and have to deal with that after the event. The wellbeing dogs initiative sounds fantastic and I hope that gets expanded and if we can help in any way with this in Driving for Better Business please let us know as we’d be delighted to help with that.
CC Shiner: It’s been expanded so most forces now have them and just in Sussex we have 17 or 18 now so quite a number and they don’t really cost us very much as they are people’s pets, so it links beautifully with the roads policing portfolio. I think one of the most heated challenges in terms of the trauma particularly for roads policing and family liaison officers is the trauma it gives to the families and loved ones of those who have died. We talk about that ‘knock on the door’ but for those officers to do that to share with a family that their loved has passed away is in itself very traumatic – and so it it’s important that we recognise exactly what we are asking  them to do alongside those teams who absolutely meticulously and forensically in order to get the families the answers they deserve, then investigate those scenes in terms of the wider investigation so we can make sure the coroner but most importantly the loved ones have some idea as to why it happened.
Anne-Marie: Thanks Jo.
With at least 1 in 3 injury collisions involves someone driving for work, employers have a critical role to play in the safety of drivers and riders.  What do you see as the current trends in the factors in road collisions and how can business and organisations help to reduce the risk on the road?
CC Shiner: Employers definitely have that critical role. It comes back to that sense of responsibility and of course the lawful duty they have so it’s very important that corners are not cut, that vehicles their employees are using are safe, it’s really important particularly for delivery drivers and that huge economy that grew during COVID that people are being tempted to break speed limits or to drive dangerously in order they can deliver their work that their bosses are asking them to do – so that responsibility of making sure that both from the vehicle side but also what we are asking those people on the roads to do has critical importance. Employees can really influence that, making sure those vehicles are safe and as up to date as they can be in terms of safety features, but what we also know which is a challenge because the reality is the cost of living is increasing and one of my urges at the moment is to urge people not to cut corners and not to save money when it comes to the safety of their vehicles. It is an obvious place that may happen but by doing that it could cost you much more money and it could cost someone their life.
Anne-Marie: Absolutely Jo. Thinking about the more regulated parts of road users, the commercial vehicles, the HGVs - it easy just to do what gets measured and I agree with your ethos about ‘don’t cut corners’ so even if it’s not being measured, if there’s something you can do to improve your safety  but it’s not looked at or checked it’s still important that you do it. Going back to the responsibility – we all have that responsibility as well as employers, the employees that drive the vehicle.
So, Police forces are also employers of drivers and riders.  In terms of good management of work-related road risk, what are the good practice stories coming out from the police on this?
CC Shiner: We also can have a significant influence in terms of training members of the public as well. There are schemes across the country – bike sense scheme and other awareness schemes which police forces use to great effect. In terms of our own driving, we ask our officers often to drive in quite difficult conditions and of course there is all the assessment and training that goes behind that but within the portfolio we are always looking at how we can make that training better. How we can equip those officers with improved skills to be able to work in that environment – often driving at speed through traffic to answer a 999 urgent call or to go after a vehicle with somebody who is wanted or have been involved in a crime so all for that professional practice, the assessment of how we use that and making sure that we are proportionate in terms of how we drive in emergency conditions I don’t think has ever been more important, particularly related to confidence in policing.
All of that is bound up in the national roads policing strategy. We talked earlier about policing our roads together and it’s intrinsically linked to that and preventing harm and saving lives and as important that we prevent harm by driving and making sure those risk assessments and training are good and solid, and officers understand their responsibilities But we do have a duty to tackle crime so one of the spokes of that strategy is understanding what role roads and our officers and staff who use the roads have in tackling crime because there are very few criminals who don’t use the roads.
That links with 3rd parties driving technology and innovation because there’s technology that can be introduced to the vehicles and to emergency service vehicles and our own vehicles that we use privately because if we can design out those features which cause accidents or certainly don’t prevent accidents then that’s got to be something we should be driving hard to do.
Making sure we are using that innovation - and that also bring challenges. The most important thing linked to this is changing minds. We must change  minds to change behaviours - if you want me to do something, then you’ll need to persuade me why that’s a good idea in the first place and therefore we need to change peoples minds that it is not okay to drive at excess speed, not okay to drive while under the influence of drinks or drugs, its not okay to not wear a seatbelt or to use your mobile phone while driving and it’s not okay to drive antisocially on the roads - it comes back to that personal responsibility so we must continue to influence and change minds so they make the right decision behind the wheel.
Anne-Marie: I’ve really enjoyed your insight today. The takeaway is actually it’s a shared responsibility. We all have that responsibility to use the roads appropriately and safely, as well as those that use the roads for business, and as well as the highway authorities who have the responsibility to design, build and maintain the roads so we can use them safely
It’s been a pleasure today, Jo. For more information on the charity that the NPCC is supporting with the welfare dogs please visit Driving for Better Business and for all other information about managing your work-related work risk.
Thank-you very much Jo.

Friday Jun 17, 2022

Show notes
Ashlee Field, DPD Group talks to us on how the road safety culture has been cascaded throughout the organisation - including the sharing of best practice by drivers with their peers. 'We like them to have a conversation with each other on how they’ve improved their driving styles based on telematics and their apps. They can look at what they are doing on the day, and we basically put them at the heart of anything we are implementing or new into DPD.'
DfBB Women in Transport Podcast: Ashlee Field - Road Safety and Partnerships Manager, DPDgroup
Welcome to the Driving for Better Business podcast. In this series we’re celebrating women working in transport, fleet management, and road safety. Driving for work is one of the biggest risks to the business. With me today I’m very pleased to introduce Ashlee Field, Road Safety and Partnerships Manager, DPD group UK.
Ashlee, welcome to the podcast. How did your passion for improving safety on the road come about?
What a great question! Back in 2018 we were asked to provide support to a local school and being an expert organiser I took on the challenge. So, I organised the vehicles, the staff, the content and how we would promote road safety, and all the goodies we took with us. We engaged with over 500 children from reception to year 6 and that started my passion for road safety.
When you went to the schools did the children really understand what you were telling them?
Ashlee: Initially it was difficult – the reception age group was difficult. When you started to get year 1 the engagement increased. One of the things we noticed was that the teachers were flabbergasted to see a truck and trailer on site and they were interested in coming to find out about it. We took onboard the elements of blind spots and making sure you’re visible and standing in the right areas so the driver could see them. They really understood that. Yes, it’s difficult but actually some of what you are teaching them is something they already know, and it gives them an opportunity to see what it looks like from the cab as well.
Anne-Marie: Yes, it’s so important to make it real and a brilliant approach you took there. Let’s talk about DPD. What’s the DPD approach to managing work related road risk. How do you monitor driver behaviour without it feeling like Big Brother?
There are tons of ways you can look into driver behaviour. The most basic version is the digital tachygraph reader that tells you a lot of things on what might be going on with the drivers on the road. It will also give you potentials like if you have a conversation with that driver it can tell you that the route is not necessarily suitable based on the fact there’s road works or additional traffic or the times they hit it are not convenient because there are schools in the area – it’s worth having a conversation with the driver first and foremost. Some of what we do is data based like telematics, monitoring harsh braking, hash acceleration and fuel economy. Other things are in cab cameras – these show you things from the road view such as dash cam footage and you also get a view in the cab as well, so it’s a good way of looking at it. One of the things we are quite keen on is being open and honest with our drivers, so we encourage sharing of best practice with peers. We like them to have a conversation with each other on how they’ve improved their driving styles based on telematics and their apps. They can look at what they are doing on the day, and we basically put them at the heart of anything we are implementing or new into DPD.
We are lucky at DPD that the drivers know we monitor their driving to improve their driving styles and it gives them better coping strategies on the road which gives us a better version of our Driver CPC and it means they are doing a smoother journey which is important to them.
Anne-Marie: Brilliant. I like the idea of really involving the driver sin changing the overall behaviour and approach to driving – and sharing the practice is what we need to do more often. We know there’s been a rise in home deliveries & the additional demand this must6 place on companies must be huge. How does DPD handle the conflicting pressures of safety and timed deliveries.
Ashlee: Home deliveries have skyrocketed. It’s been a very difficult 2 years and everybody across any version of delivery or collection has felt that. At DPD we have an exceptional planning team and stae of the art tech to plan routes and time deliveries effectively, so all of our routes are planned so that the driver has enough time to complete delivery or collection, have their legal breaks and complete any other tasks like refuelling or charging the vehicle. It is not always easy to plan for everything like accidents and additional traffic due to roadworks that have gone on longer than planned or events that are happening all disrupt everyone’s schedules. What we do is plan for the maximum amount of time for travel between delivery and collection points which means they have more time hopefully. In terms of back end when they have breaks, they have more time to sit down and relax before they go back on the road and then it plans for the typical traffic flow. If for example you look on Google maps it says your travel time – we always give the maximum suggested time for travel. I would always advocate you follow the traffic flow of the area and you’re aware of that. One of the last things we rely on is the drivers themselves. It’s their route, their area, they are well versed as to what is going on in their area and they will always know the best way to get through a situation - traffic or accident – so always go back to the drivers and have a conversation with them because they can tell you the best way around it.
Anne-Marie: Great advice. The impact on actual customers is minimised as well – so customer service doesn’t go down in your opinion?
Ashlee: Yes – it’s at the heart of what we do – the end point. Things like the app has enabled us to add more time needed to the end customer, so drivers know that the person needs more time to come to the door and things like that. The end customer needs to be aware that ‘look out your window, there’s a lot of traffic!’
Anne-Marie: Let’s talk about awards you’ve won. The corporate safety award from the Institute of Couriers and Road Safety in the Community Award as part of the Brake Fleet Safety Awards are just 2. What made the community award so special?
Ashlee: They are fantastic awards and I’m exceptionally proud of them. It was my first year in road safety, so I was really proud of them. I think it’s important to give back to the community as a resident and as a worker. My job takes me across the UK, so I am going into different areas all the time, and I think it’s important to give back. We’ve got around 13,000 drivers delivering or collecting parcels around the UK over a 24 hour period which is massive. Most of these pass through our 5 hubs in the Midlands and 2 of the biggest hubs are in Leicestershire and until 2015 we didn’t have a huge presence in that area. I wanted to create a partnership with the community to let them know what we offer, what benefits we give to the local area, and given the recent influx of DPD vans and trucks, education in the local community on our vehicles was a top priority for me and raising awareness of road safety is always invaluable. Since 2019 we’ve engaged with over 5000 people across the UK – that’s just community side, not anything internal. We also have the community fund at DPD which enables any of our DPD people to request funding to support local charities and causes.
Anne-Marie: Such a worthwhile thing to do. We talked about the work you do with schools and colleges. How does this benefit the students and their future employers?
Ashlee: I am all over this. I engage in the future workforce aspect. I do my best to spend time with our future workforce, so I’ve signed up to be an ambassador for T Levels – have a look at the government website – basically it’s another route to post-16 studying, similar to an A Level or college course giving you additional on the job experience - about 40 days on the job. There are only about 11 routes, but they are looking to expand that in the future. I am also an enterprise advisor at a local school in the Leicestershire enterprise programme providing business support to the school on career guidance so I attend a virtual call or meeting or go into the school, and we look at ways they can improve their career guidance. From a business perspective it’s also how DPD can encourage other businesses to help the school with career guidance as well. I attend events at schools and colleges like mock interviews, speed networking relating heavily to STEM subjects which is a huge focus for anyone who works in logistics and transport so that’s another thing I try to do. For me, that gives the students practical experience of talking to a human being that works in this side of the environment, which also gives the students opportunities to explore avenues they haven’t explored before. We can showcase the other opportunities and career paths at DPD which I think is fantastic.
Anne-Marie: How do you manage to do all of this within 24 hours a day?? You’re clearly passionate about road safety and you’re making differences where you’re working, so what benefits does DPD see from promoting road safety in the work you’ve done?
Ashlee: Road safety benefits are subtle It’s one of those things that you have avoided an accident which you never knew you were going to have is the best way to put it. This is how I explain it to my senior management team. Improving road safety is a continuous strategy. Something you promote and educate but it needs to have a direct link to the business and it’s important to remember that. Road safety is a subject area that is so
broad and it’s hard to narrow down to business specifically. I look at collision rates, incident rates, vehicle damage - why has that vehicle been damaged that way? Can we minimise that? What that does is minimise road risk, so a lot of what we do relates back to the DPD culture – which has existed before me - DVSA recognition status and that shows we’re obviously committed to improving and we are honest with them about what’s going on. Internally we look at our commitment with our audits – looking at what we can improve and what we can review and that goes for our policies and procedures as well. We try to remain up to date with what’s going on with road safety. Improving road safety on the roads basically reduces your incident rates, your vehicle damage, your costs, and ensures you minimise road risk and the best way to work that out is through your insurance details. They will tell you and help you in figuring out how that links back to your business directly.
Anne-Marie: One final question – how easy it is for other organisations to have a road safety advocate in their organisation?
Ashlee: There’s always someone who will have a passion for it same as I have. I would encourage where possible to harness that passion – support them and allow them to develop with links to internal and external stakeholders. It’s really important you talk to the people you’re working with internally – who you’re trying to influence and why. Make friends with departments and organisations that can improve your road safety management- like Driving for Better Business – I’m an absolute advocate for you guys as we share the same passion and it gives you ideas to help spread that creativity in terms of road safety. Be prepared for long term goals – it’s not a quick thing. Results don’t happen overnight - it takes data analysis, research, stakeholder reengagement and that’s before the intervention even goes live. My last point is road safety improves best when there’s a solid plan and everyone is willing to engage and advocate to gain results. Although you may have one person that works on road safety – it’s still everybody’sresponsibility.
Annemarie: Ashlee, Thank you – brilliant and sound advice. Thanks for joining us today – and if people want to know more about Driving for Better Business and the benefits to managing and reducing your road risk take a look at the websitewww.drivingforbetterbusiness.com


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