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https://despatch.blog.gov.uk/2021/11/24/developing-a-trailer-safety-accreditation-scheme/

Developing a trailer safety accreditation scheme

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A car with trailer being loaded outside a cottage

Over the last few months, we’ve been preparing for changes to car and trailer  testing. We’re planning to launch a voluntary trailer safety accreditation scheme which will encourage drivers to get training to help them tow safely and enjoy their towing activity.

To make sure we get this right, we’re working with towing and training groups – to look at how to set the scheme up and what it should focus on.

Last week, alongside DVSA colleagues, I led some workshops with organisations representing the towing and trailer industry.

I’m pleased to say the conversations were positive and engaging – including on what the accreditation scheme could achieve and how it should be delivered. In this blog post, I want to share some of the things we learnt and also what we’re planning to do, going forward.

I know the car and trailer test changes have been the subject of much debate recently, which is why we feel it’s really important to engage with towing and training groups on the accreditation scheme.

We want motorists to see the accreditation scheme as the right way to find out how to tow a trailer safely, and with confidence.

Setting the scene

The workshops were held on 9 November and we asked for feedback on three areas:

  • Setting the standard of the training
  • The government appointed accrediting body or bodies
  • The accredited training providers

 The different groups were given some discussion points to help their conversations. For example, those who looked at ‘setting the standard’, considered the duration of training and the environment where it should take place.

Reviewing the feedback

For the first topic, on setting the standards of the training, there was a consensus for a modular approach.

This would mean providing a basic towing module with additional modules for specific sectors, for example livestock or plant.

A number of the groups felt that the driver testing syllabus would be a good starting point for the standard. In other areas, such as the duration of the training, there was a broader range of views.

Discussions about the accrediting body or bodies focused on having more than one organisation and including a standard for assessors.

Some organisations were also interested in getting more of an understanding about the procurement process DVSA would need to go through to appoint an accrediting body or bodies.

On training providers, some of the groups said existing trainers should be able to join and build up their skills, rather than having a new structure for all. They felt that once the scheme had been established, an assessment of new providers could be introduced.

There was also a discussion about having a level playing field and whether trainers with good standards/skills could be promoted.

Taking this forward

Sadly it’s not possible to share all of the detail from the workshops in a blog post but I hope this has given you a snapshot of the discussions.

In this final section, I’d like to tell you about what happens next.

We’ll run a follow-up webinar for vocational trainers, to update them on the latest developments and get their thoughts on the accreditation scheme too. We’ll send invitations out for these webinars once they have been arranged.

We’re also going to:

  • Develop the car and trailer towing standard
  • Develop a working version of the syllabus
  • Carry on the work needed to appoint an accrediting body or bodies

We’ll continue to work with the trailer and training industry to share our progress and get feedback.

If you have any observations or comments, please post them below.

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9 comments

  1. Comment by Sam posted on

    Are you hoping training providers will have just held onto trailers and cars and pay for insurance, tax and parking whilst you take more than 3 months to put this together.

    You then expect these ex-providers to get acredited at I am sure some cost to deliver a course which no one will book

    You really expect the general public to pay for a scheme which is not mandatory

    You are all on another planet

    Reply
  2. Comment by Ken Sewart posted on

    Our experience shows that where training and certification is not legally requried, uptake is realtively low and generally arises under PUWER reuirements from employers. The average individual who tows a trailer or horse box is much less likely to undertake 'accredited' training, relying more on friends/family or experiential learning.
    Course duration - we have had a very broad range of candidate presenting for training - from those who have never towed at all and are relatively inexperienced drivers to those from an agricultutal backgroud from whom towing is already second nature (including at least one C+E licence holder sent by their employer for an assessment for site access). The duration of a course should reflect the initial standard the candidate arrives at and not be mandated as a set duration irrespective of prior experience.

    Reply
  3. Comment by Alistair Martin posted on

    You state the accredited scheme will start early next year. Have you got a proposed time for this. As ALL trainers of B+E have been in limbo now for too long.
    We all get calls on a daily basis asking us what's happening, Nd as professionals in this field it isn't good when all we can answer is "you know as much as we do..!!"
    There are also alot of people who rely on need to Tow for their job, they are in limbo too at the moment not knowing what to do.
    I also see often trainers of the ex B+E selling there vehicles and trailers, coz of the financial burden these items have being parked up and not working , the longer this goes on the more good trainers we are losing from this industry. So an expected timescale for this scheme would help us all know exactly where we all stand, as opposed to not knowing what's happening with our jobs, income and business .

    Reply
    • Replies to Alistair Martin>

      Comment by Peter (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Alistair,

      As you are aware, the scheme is planned to be launched early next year. We'll give more information on this as the scheme's development progresses.

      Kind regards.

      Reply
  4. Comment by GORDON REID posted on

    Since the B+E test was withdrawn my business has been in limbo.
    I cancelled 29 B+E tests booked for after the 20th. September and only a handful of those clients decided to take some training, with the rest taking the view that if they don't have to do it why waste the money.
    Only the most conscientious of drivers will take extra training.
    It is different for companies who have to comply with health and safety rules etc. but unless it is made compulsory I can't see this scheme working.
    I have been caravanning for 49yrs. and the difference in outfits now is chalk and cheese. As cars got bigger and more powerful and caravans got longer and wider drivers adapted to the changes, but this new legislation puts inexperienced drivers straight on to the top rung of the ladder, and unfortunately experience is something we get just after we need it.

    Reply
  5. Comment by David Jones posted on

    How and when can I apply for the accreditation scheme ?

    Reply
    • Replies to David Jones>

      Comment by Peter (DVSA) posted on

      Hi David,

      We are still working with the trailer and training industry on the developing this scheme and will provide more updates on this when we have it.

      Kind regards.

      Reply
  6. Comment by David Pryce posted on

    on the 9th November you emailed me saying that the trailer safety accreditation workshop was canceled until the government represents the legislation to both house on the 15th and now today, another lie in a long line of B+E lies to trainers, and Mark Winns replys to uncomfortable questions on the Webinar were scandalous, when are we going to get a say about this B+E new standard, Mr Winn only likes consulting people that present no problems, scandalous treatment of people and trainers.

    Reply
  7. Comment by Steve Cocks B.Sc. posted on

    Thank you for updating us on current situation regarding DVSA. Firstly, I apologise if this message is somewhat more blunt than the spin we are used to receiving from DVSA, but there are things that need to be said.

    1. Two weeks the Statutory Instrument regarding the decision to scrap mandatory BE testing did not pass through Parliament. The Lords and various MP’s from across the political spectrum echoed the continued, widespread, concerns of professionals and others involved in the road safety and driver training industry regarding the road safety implications of this move. This includes every single DVSA driving examiner (vocational and car) we have spoken to. Bottom line, both DVSA and government have been heavily criticised for trying to impliment these changes without providing ANY evidence supporting this move that shows there will be no detrimental impact on road safety. We have constantly asked for this supporting evidence from DVSA as a whole, from government, directly and via our constituency MP.
    Guess what? Nobody has been able to give us this information. Indeed, seeing DVSA officials being unable to answer road safety concerns during the recent BE webinars was embarrasing. Instead we receive endless spin regarding the shortage of LGV drivers as a justification for playing hard and loose with road safety. Answer me this: When we at Drivex have made these enquiries, how come not one single DVSA official pointed us in the direction of the government’s own Trailer Safety Report?

    Trailer safety: statutory report (publishing.service.gov.uk)

    This report is very clear on it’s recommendations regarding BE testing, and I quote (P.55 incase you are unfamiliar with the contents):

    Testing of drivers

    5.25 The rules relating to testing of drivers vary according to when the car driving test was passed. If this was passed on or after 1 January 1997, the driver can: ─ drive a car or van up to 3,500kg maximum authorised mass (MAM) towing a trailer of up to 750kg MAM ─ tow a trailer over 750kg MAM as long as the combined MAM of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3,500kg
    5.26 In order to tow heavier trailers, or an increased MAM, the driver must undertake an additional practical driving test, often called the "B+E" test. Given that a range of stakeholders and data sources pinpoint driver error as a key factor in towing incidents, it is sensible to consider improvements to this test.
    5.27 DVSA will be considering revisions and improvements to the B+E safety questions, which form part of the practical test, over coming months. These will seek to address issues which have been raised during this report.
    5.28 Additionally, DVSA will consider ways to promote the B+E syllabus in the national driving standard42, especially to increase awareness of safety issues among new and learner drivers and those who may only tow rarely.
    5.29 DVSA will also explore the potential implications of a revision to the minimum test vehicle requirements. At present drivers undergoing the B+E test are required to use a trailer with a maximum authorised mass (MAM) of at least 1,000kg, carrying a load of at least 600kg. DVSA will explore whether increases to this requirement, for example requiring a combination over 3.5 tonnes, would lead to tests being undertaken in a more representative vehicle combination, and whether any safety benefits would be proportionate to the cost of amending the requirements

    Is this report an inconvenient truth, written at a time when there was no political agenda regarding the removal of BE testing? Do the contents of this report become invalid just because there is a ‘sudden’ shortage of LGV drivers?

    Indeed, the contents of this report are so clear that the suspicion now is that the forthcoming impact statement regarding the safety implications of scrppping BE testing will simply be a tickbox exercise, just as the public consultation was, and will fudge whatever figures the government needs to justify it’s position.

    2. Our clients are almost exclusively businesses, largely in the utilities sector, but also incuding smaller businesses such as those involved in inshore rescue, highways maintenance, landscaping, etc. These businesses require their staff to tow heavy trailers, namely digger trailers, bowsers, pipe coil trailers, boat trailers and the like. Since 20 September the employees of these businesses have been unable to gain their BE licence. We were informed by DVSA that they would be granted automatic BE entitlement on 15 November and we have been working with clients in preparing them for this date. The aforementioned Parliamentary debate was on Monday evening. DVSA chose to wait until 16.28 on the evening of 11 November to advise us, by email, that the 15 November change was being delayed until ‘Autumn 2021.’ We work closely with our clients and we had already advised them that this change was unlikely to go ahead, as we wanted to give them as much time as possible to communicate to their managers and staff that they cannot now tow from 15 November. Frankly, it is unnacceptable that DVSA delayed the official announcement until Thursday evening, effectively giving UK PLC just one working day’s notice before the change was due to take place.

    3. Now let me turn to the proposed BE accreditation scheme. From our own business perspective, despite the safety concerns regarding the abolishion of mandatory BE testing not being answered and the 15 November deadline not occuring, we also have to contend with the proposed BE accreditation scheme.

    Firstly, the aforementioned DVSA webinars, specifically about the accreditation scheme, told us nothing new. They could not inform us of what type of trailers should be used, what weight parameters they should meet, whether they should be loaded or not, who was going to administer the scheme, what the costs were likely to be, when it was going to be implimented etc.
    This current, and still, vague situation is simply unnacceptable. Our clients need their staff to tow heavy trailers now. We are highly experienced in the field of driver risk management, including 18 years of working in the BE sector. Our BE sign-off document is a 6-page, HSE compliant, e-report. We are confident in the validity and quality of the work we do for our clients.

    In the business world, we need to know definite, workable information in order to make business and investment, decisions. ‘Autumn 2021’, ‘next year’ are too vague.

    How do you realistically expect businesses and trainers in the BE sector, a vast number of which have had zero or very little income since the almost immediate cessation of BE testing, to make decisions when all we get from DVSA is vagueness? Decisions need to be made over whether to keep vehicles, trailers, practice sites etc. Decisions need to be made on marketing, employement of staff, repayment of loans. PEOPLE NEED TO FEED THEIR FAMILIES AND PAY MORTGAGES. To think that those people who work(ed) in the BE sector can simply hang on while you lot at DVSA keep feeding us meaningless spin with vague dates attached is simply unnacceptable.

    Let me give you an example of just one example of how out of touch DVSA is with the reality of this situation. In one of my early communications with DVSA regarding this matter, I had a reply from Alison Wilson in the DVSA Corporate Reputation department. Within her reply she said:

    ‘We understand this change is disappointing to car and trailer trainers.’

    DISAPPOINTING!!!!

    When the potential loss of your business and livelihood is announced, would you agree this is somewhat of an understatement?

    Indeed, within the contacts I have across the UK in the BE training sector, there is a very strong feeling that the DVSA, at the top level, has cast them adrift without any concerns whatsoever.

    Trust and respect has been lost. In this email I have outlined both our position at Drivex and also the concerns of other businesses and trainers in the BE sector. This constant ‘jam tomorrow, everything is in hand, everything will be fine’, attitude of DVSA is not cutting it in the real world.

    I challenge you now to start treating those businesses and individuals involved in the BE sector with some respect and to get this situation sorted with the utmost urgency.

    For example, here are just two of the situations where your actions are creating genuine problems in the real world (the ‘real world’ is where most of the country lives and works, where the very survival of businesses, and the people that work in those businesses, rely on those businesses being able to function and generate income, and in return, some of that income goes towards paying the salaries and upkeep of government agencies and the civil servants that ‘work’ there):

    How are we to advise clients on updating their Driving for Work Policy when we don’t know what rules we are working to. Existing policies have now been out of date for two months but we can’t update them because there are no new rules in place. This is a genuine Health and Safety concern and puts businesses in an impossible situation.

    How are we supposed to know how to make decisions regarding our training vehicle leases that are coming to an end?

    We were angry last week, now that anger is off the scale. We no longer want words from you, the UK needs action.

    Reply

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