With more and more companies looking to fill driver vacancies due to the current construction demand for concrete and mortar, there’s always the temptation to get a new driver out on the road as soon as possible, often resulting in damaging, sometimes fateful, consequences.

With the recent news of a new Road Accident Investigation Branch (RSIB) launching to make independent safety recommendations, will that impact the rollover incidents suffered in the UK?
IRTE (Institute of Road Transport Engineers) made many recommendations around training that fell on deaf ears, but this is slightly different, so interesting to see what happens.

What about the recent changes to the sentencing guidelines for motoring offences? Will that make companies reevaluate what they do regarding training and assessing driver competence?
Probably not, but it should serve as a warning.

Working in an industry that’s sometimes resistant to change, I was taken aback by some comments yesterday when it was pointed out that the industry does everything to ensure drivers receive all the training they need to deliver products within the minerals sector… typical of the misguided judgement of so many within our industry.

I was even further shocked by what came next when I mentioned competence.
A company introducing driving assessments carried out on ready-mix vehicles (mixers) by someone who’s never driven a ‘ready-mix, mixing vehicle truck with a barrel type thing’… it gets better, though.

“The assessment will cover the driving behaviours of the ready-mix vehicle driver, understanding of the highway code and drivers hours regulations and working time directive.”

All essential parts of the driver’s role, but those can be covered by CPC training.
The assessment looks at road positioning, gears, braking, etc., everything you’d expect from a generic driving assessment, but that doesn’t go anywhere near what’s needed in our industry to reduce the vast amount of mixer-related incidents we’re currently experiencing both on the road and on-site, let alone reduce the number of rollovers.

Competence can only be assessed when putting a person into action, following appropriate training & instruction.
We must give drivers a chance to prove they are competent in a particular area, in this case, mixers, and observe & assess them directly in that work environment.
This can be supplemented by considering experience and practical knowledge gained; that’s when we will see results and improvements.

The competence aspect above shows a few recent examples of how we treat rollovers in this country.

An experienced driver who rolled a truck narrowly missing a pedestrian had never had his competence checked before the incident, and again afterwards, no demonstration of competence was deemed necessary.

Or the less experienced driver, four days into the role, without any training on the mixer, no demonstration of competence either before or after the incident and ended up squashing the bonnet of an oncoming car.

In both cases, no driver interventions or corrections from an investigation, only confirmation that the driver was in possession of a driver skills card and a toolbox talk would be issued… a typical reaction to a problem we don’t want to tackle.

Look at it another way; if the driver had failed to take a break in time or had gone 2/3 minutes over their driving time, corrective action would come due to the infringement, possibly needing a training course to demonstrate understanding of the rules.

Speeding? The driver may be offered the chance to attend a speed awareness course, a behaviour change intervention to help them recognise why it’s unsafe to speed and the potential consequences.

In fact, many National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme (NDORS) courses are available to change behaviours and play their part in reducing collisions, death and injury to road users.
Drivers are offered different courses for various offences, including;
• Driving without due care and attention.
• Tailgating; traffic light offences; crossing a solid white line; stopping, overtaking or failing to give precedence in zebra/puffin/pelican areas; stopping at school gates; and contravening a no-entry sign.
• Cycling through a red light, cycling without lights, or cycling on pavements and paths not open to cyclists.
• Not wearing a seatbelt.
What do you think would require an intervention more? Cycling without lights or rolling a 32-tonne mixer on a busy road.

What say we introduce a Rollover Awareness Course and look at the root causes? Then we might get somewhere… if only there were one available.

It shouldn’t matter who develops, delivers or accredits the training and assessments; what matters is that it raises the standard of what we currently do.
Sadly, politically motivated reasons detract from the importance of what’s being offered.

Standards are developed to enhance and support safety-critical behaviours, so the question must be asked, “is the commercial need of greater importance than the safety aspect” – an uncomfortable but necessary question.

We have drivers without the proper training to develop the skills and understanding needed to drive and operate a specialist vehicle with a live load.
Yet, up and down the country, on jobs big and small, drivers are still expected by some to pick the job as they go… and this 2022.

It doesn’t matter where you are; the concept of ready-mix concrete is the same worldwide, the dangers are still the same, and the risks and hazards are still the same, so why is the industry resisting the chance to put things right?

If you can answer that, then maybe we get somewhere.


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