Managing a commercial vehicle fleet within a complex operating environment is a challenge in itself. Coupled with satisfying the demands of the business, customers and drivers, it requires consistent and proactive management.

Below are a few tips to ensure legal compliance: Develop a cohesive compliance strategy based on research and understanding: Clearly understand the regulations that will affect your fleet and define your compliance strategy roadmap accordingly.

Once you have set out your roadmap, then you will need a cohesive implementation plan that will ensure that you achieve the desired business objectives. The roadmap should consist of long term goals to address the needs of the business which should be well publicised and use the right systems and tools to measure, monitor and manage the success moving forward. It is vital to ensure you fully understand all terminology and how it effects the transport operation. For example how does Operator Compliance Risk Score (OCRS) affect the fleet? Is that area currently being managed?

Ensure stakeholder buy in: All decision makers and colleagues must understand and appreciate the benefit of any proposed initiatives and policy changes. New schemes should have a solid business case with a clearly defined measurable return on investment. Clear and concise proposals with tangible benefits that include addressing high profile issues, excessive spend or mitigate unnecessary risk are more likely to be embraced by key stakeholders are therefore likely to get approved. Communication is vital – for example a proposal to fit speed limiters to all vans on the fleet is likely to be met by objections from drivers. Delivering a clear business communication which details the advantages and benefits of the proposal will reduce the risk of opposition.

Don’t reinvent the wheel – use the raft of resources available:
In the heavily legislated world of commercial vehicles, there is a mass of guides and best practice documentation available for fleet managers to adapt and adopt. Becoming a member of organisations such as the Freight Transport Association (FTA) or the Road Haulage Association and working towards accreditations such as the FTA-managed Van Excellence scheme and the Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) encourages the use of best practice policies and procedures. Adherence to them through regular reviews and assessments will help cut fleet operating costs and ensure legislative compliance. Partnering suppliers that are accredited to such schemes is also beneficial.

Invest time and resource to implement new systems:
Every implemented initiative should support the wider fleet strategy, and time and resource used effectively. Time spent upfront to successfully implement process changes will help reduce the long-term administration of the new initiatives, ensure a smooth transition into new working practices, and ensure minimal business disruption through the change process.

Keep accurate records
Ensure that you have systems and processes to gather, measure and manage your data. There are many modern fleet management systems available but it’s important to make sure that get one which will be continuously developed to ensure that you don’t end up with an obsolete system that no longer meets your requirements in years to come.

A robust audit trail may seem to be administratively cumbersome, but it is vital in the event of an incident. All compliance-related maintenance records such as drivers’ defect reports used to record any faults and subsequent rectification work must be kept for a minimum of 15 months.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) will accept hard copies of the documentation and increasingly is accepting electronically stored documents. Having a robust software system whereby all documents are electronically kept against the asset record will make issue investigation less time-consuming.

Promote driver responsibility:
A clearly defined, best practice culture will help promote driver responsibility. Drivers need to be made aware and continually reminded of their legal responsibilities when reporting vehicle defects and maintaining vehicle condition as well as the laws surrounding their obligations when driving in terms of mobile phone use, speed limits, drug-drive policies etc.

Drivers may be fined or prosecuted for the defects found on the vehicles they drive. Failure to take these responsibilities seriously could ultimately result in a driver losing their licence. Thus having a process that motivates drivers to complete daily vehicle checks and follow procedures relating to defect reporting and other expected duties, will in turn result in a well a maintained and compliant fleet. Some systems allow for a driver declaration and defect reporting to be completed online.

Have a robust maintenance supplier management system:
Ensure maintenance contracts are watertight and transparent as accurate management of vehicle servicing and repairs is paramount. Poor maintenance control and record keeping can cause unnecessary downtime and expense as well as jeopardising your Operator Licence.

If third party maintenance contractors present vehicles for an MOT with unrectified maintenance and repair issues then this is going to have an adverse effect on a company’s OCRS score putting an organisation in danger of breaching its Operator Licence.

Utilising an independent inspector – such as from the FTA or the RHA – to scrutinise the work done by maintenance contractors could eliminate or highlight potential issues that can be addressed before they become a problem.

Let your maintenance providers know about their potential to be scrutinised which should hopefully help to ensure their diligence when servicing and maintaining vehicles.

Proactively check drivers licences:
The monitoring of driving licences, particularly those belonging to employees close to disqualification under the “totting up” system, is paramount to ensure staff are legal to drive for work. With an estimated 400,000 drivers on UK roads without a valid licence and nearly one million close to losing theirs, an automated licence checking service can help mitigate company exposure. Leading-edge fleet systems can be configured to automatically check driving licences with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, either at intervals defined by risk level, or on an ad-hoc basis. Capturing endorsement points is only one part of understanding driver risk and shouldn’t be just used in isolation, it is also important to understand their risk associated with accidents, fuel and maintenance expenditure.

Act on findings:
Collecting data can be easy, but producing meaningful management information and taking appropriate action can be a much more daunting prospect. Therefore, it is important to be methodical in the approach to centralising data and consider the potential consequences of having evidence of non-compliance and then not acting on it.

Allocate budget wisely:
The fleet system should be used to proactively identify high priority areas and attention focussed accordingly – such as tackling high risk drivers, implementing vehicle specification changes or introducing a new fuel policy. Most fleet departments have finite resource and budget, so prioritise high return initiatives first to achieve the best return on investment.