John Hix has been involved in FORS for many years, dating back to when it was launched as a Transport for London (TfL) scheme in around 2008.

What, in your words, is FORS?
FORS is a quality standard for fleet operators. It is all about reaching and maintaining best practice standards in fleet management, in terms of vehicles and vehicle maintenance, driver standards and training, and in efficient operations.

There are three tiers of accreditation in FORS: Bronze, Silver and Gold. Operators are audited against this standard and if they meet the requirements, they can display the FORS logo on their vehicles as a mark of reputation and quality.

The FORS Community Partnership, established in 2015, consists of AECOM, The Chartered Institute for Logistics Transport (CILT) and Fleet Source. AECOM manages FORS, CILT takes care of the governance of the standard and Fleet Source carries out the auditing and certification. The scheme is run as a concession from TfL. The Governance and Standards Advisory Group (GSAG) is made up of key operators and specifiers who ensure that the FORS Standard is progressive and remains relevant.

How has the past year been for FORS as an organisation?

We have worked hard this year to offer new benefits and services to FORS members. For example, in 2017 we developed a new FORS practitioner workshop, which is all about quiet deliveries and noise abatement. We also developed another workshop called ‘Going for Silver and Gold’, which helps Bronze-level members to progress through to the Silver and Gold levels of the scheme.
We have also introduced a driver licence checking service, with probably some of the best rates available in the industry. Licence checking is part of the FORS Standard requirements. We have also launched a fleet management system to help operators manage their fleets more safely and efficiently.

In addition, we have held some webinars as an efficient means of communication; discussing what FORS is, how you register, what the benefits are, and how you progress through the scheme. Many of these services are free to use and help FORS operators to achieve accreditation.

How can members use FORS guidelines to improve safety standards for their organisation?

The standard sets out requirements that are safety-focused. For example, FORS requires a certain level of driver training; at the Bronze level, this means completing at least one safety module from our e-learning programme. If this is achieved, at Silver level, we require members to have undergone classroom training about the experience of vulnerable road users. This includes a cycle element where they go out on the roads themselves to gain the cyclist’s perspective.

In terms of vehicle equipment, at Bronze, we require sideguards on all vehicles over 3.5 tonnes, which goes beyond the legal minimum requirement. At Silver, we are looking for blind spot minimisation; cameras and sensors to warn drivers of the presence of cyclists, reversing cameras for vehicles over 12 tonnes, things like that. And if they progress to Gold level, we like operators to do case studies and champion the scheme to other users, often with a theme of road safety or fuel performance.

Does the FORS standard ever change?

Every two years the governance group of FORS, which is made up of industry stakeholders, reviews the requirements of the standard to make sure they are keeping up with developments in best practice and legislative changes.

What are your thoughts on the HGV Direct Vision Standard (DVS) and Safety Permit Scheme in London?

The DVS is currently under consultation and the approach going forwards is that if you meet the FORS Silver requirements, you will meet the requirements of the Permit scheme suggested under the DVS.

I think that if you can reduce blind spots by design, that has to be a good thing. The development of the DVS is something that would be of interest for the governance group to look at in terms of how it incorporates direct vision standards into the FORS requirements over time.

Does FORS collaborate with the Driver Vehicle and Standards Agency?

The Driver Vehicle and Standards Agency (DVSA), who set up the Earned Recognition scheme, are part of our governance group. We are currently working with the DVSA to potentially introduce a process whereby if an operator is interested in both Earned Recognition and FORS, the FORS auditor could carry out a combined Earned Recognition and FORS audit.

Can you tell us about the expansion of FORS from a London-centric scheme to nationwide coverage?

Whilst originally a TfL scheme, FORS is now specified by developers, tier one contractors and even some local authorities across the country. Two thirds of our members are
non-London based. On our website, we have an interactive map on which you can click on any part of the UK and across Europe to find FORS members.

What does the future hold for FORS?

2018 is a standard review year, so the governance group will examine the requirements as they stand and make sure they are up-to-date. Furthermore, we want to make the scheme simpler. Currently, we have Bronze, Silver and Gold audits – these are three separate exercises of accreditation. We are looking into a way of combining them into a single audit process to make it easier and more efficient for members to register and progress. We are also trying to be more accessible in terms of the kinds of operations that can become accredited. There are large sections of the industry, for example couriers or some van operations, that are self-employed, franchise operators. We are working with some of these firms to create a good system of accreditation that works for that business model.

Our number one objective for FORS is improving road safety and in our experience, if you are safe, you also tend to be efficient. This also leads to reduced fuel costs, incidents costs, and environmental impact.

CASE STUDY

Qatar-based transport providers Mowasalat provide public transport across Qatar, including the bus service in and around Doha and a range of contract transport options across the country. As part of their plans for the World Cup in 2022, they enlisted the guidance of FORS, as they were looking for a best practice standard that could fill a perceived gap in regulatory requirements in the Middle East.
“We travelled to Qatar and audited Mowasalat against the Standard,” said John. “I am pleased to report they have progressed to the required level. The company is now a Bronze level FORS member. We have approximately 1000 buses accredited with them. They are a very impressive company and we are very happy to be working with them.”

For more information: www.fors-online.org.uk