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September 19 2018
By Jessica Barton

Jessica writes for routeone, Group Tourism & Travel, and is the Editor of Coach Drivers Club News


Lakeside Coaches: Striving to be the best

Lakeside Coaches’ Operations Manager Sam Hall explains how opting into DVSA’s Earned Recognition scheme cuts out one of the hassles of operating PCVs

A family affair: Director Neal Hall with sons Sam and Joe

Launching the pilot of its Earned Recognition (ER) initiative in April 2017, the DVSA formally opened the scheme to the entire industry to “reward exemplary” coach, bus and truck operators earlier this year.

In total, 13 operators in the PCV sector joined the pilot. One of these ‘founder members’ was Ellesmere-based operator Lakeside Coaches.

Running a fleet of 40 vehicles on a variety of work, the firm is already seeing the benefits that the scheme is having not only on its day-to-day efficiency and compliancy, but also to its 60-strong team.

How it works

The auditing process to get onto the scheme is rigorous, but reassuringly so, says Lakeside’s Operations Manager Sam Hall.

“It was a challenge getting onto the scheme as the audit was quite thorough, but in a positive way,” he says.

“It gave us plenty of confidence that it was an elite scheme. Everybody wants to be the best at what they do, so I feel being a part of it sets you apart from the rest.”

ER uses technology to prove that operators meet the highest standards. IT systems monitor a set of KPIs, and report to DVSA if any are missed.

As members of the Freight Transport Association, Lakeside uses its tachograph analysis platform to submit its KPIs automatically to the DVSA.

Says Sam: “There are rounded-up KPIs that are sent on the four-week ISO calendar and I just get a notification of where we are within the threshold in the form of a percentage. It’s the same process for the maintenance side.”

ER participants will not be routinely stopped

In terms of adding to workload, joining the scheme has negligible impact, says Sam.

“From the management side there’s a little bit more pressure, but it’s nice to know that we’re doing it right,” he says.

Seeing the benefits

ER participants’ vehicles will not be subject to routine stops, allowing “the best operators to go about their business unhindered, so we can target those most likely to be a danger,” says DVSA Chief Executive Gareth Llewellyn.

Lakeside Coaches won routeone’s Medium Coach Operator of the Year in 2016

Those part of the scheme will achieve ‘Blue’ status on the DVSA’s Operator Compliance Risk Score (OCRS) system – as opposed to red (non-compliant), amber (compliance issues) or green (compliant).

Says Sam: “Our drivers are not getting checked and even the DVSA officials will come to them and say: ‘Don’t worry, we’re not going to check you because we can see you are on ER’, which the drivers are very happy with because they are left alone.

“We were green on the OCRS system anyway, so we were stopped minimally. Now it’s nice that, unless it is a random spot check, we won’t be stopped at all,” he adds.

The business has also seen the advantages the scheme has on its staff.

“It has really pulled the team together,” says Sam. “The drivers have taken it well and have also been working with us really well with it. They are even more rigorous in their punctuality with the tachographs, for example.

“I feel that they come to me more often if they have any queries and even if it’s just minor things, they want to make sure they’re doing the job the best they can – even more so now we are a part of ER.”

Adopting technology

Lakeside’s investment in technology has helped the process of being in the scheme.

The firm operates a 40-strong fleet on a variety of work

Says Sam: “Walk-round checks used to be paper-based, but now they’re on an app so that the information can be checked digitally.

“There is always going to be teething issues with technology, but we’ve managed to work with CheckedSafe and tailor it to our own needs and the drivers are all very happy with it.”

Staff in the workshop also use to this type of technology to submit workshop inspection checks.

“They have iPads to do the checks and that’s automatically set onto the back office,” says Sam.

“It’s my brother Joe in the workshop, so I work with him quite closely to get it right and he’s taken it upon himself to make sure everything 110% and he’s doing a cracking job.”

Breaking misconceptions

The scheme rewards operators who are serious about road safety and Sam is keen to emphasise that it doesn’t exist as an industry’s ‘Big Brother’.

He says: “I think there’s a bit of a misconception that the DVSA can see everything, which really isn’t the case - it’s just the KPIs. If there’s anything that’s cause for concern, that’s when questions would start to be asked.

“The DVSA is not coming in and looking through your emails or anything like that. It’s more if something is going to spike red on its system, then that will be brought to its attention.

“As any professional business, Lakeside has numerous accreditations and trade body memberships.

“Being a part of ER is another accreditation to have and it’s great for business. We are always striving for the best and we feel that the scheme helps us with that.”



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