Fleet operation/operational responsibilities

Fleet operation/operational responsibilities

1. Introduction

The exemptions from the various aspects of road traffic legislation which are specific to the construction and use of Fire & Rescue Service (FRS) vehicles are well known and include, for example, lighting and speed limits. Uniquely within the transport industry, FRS fleets are also exempt from the need to hold an operator’s licence which in the commercial world may be refused or revoked for a variety of reasons or failure to comply with conditions.  While these exemptions have been granted for sound reasons no lesser standard of fleet operation should prevail in the FRS than those required by statute for the rest of the large goods vehicle transport industry.

For the granting of an 'O' licence, it is a prerequisite that the person accountable in law is suitably qualified and in possession of a Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC).

Strategic and Principal Managers must recognise that, although an operator’s licence is not required for FRS Fleet Operations, it is recommended that, to demonstrate appropriate industry compliance, the Fleet Manager should be suitably qualified with a professional qualification and a CPC.

In this guide, references are made to various levels of responsibility and Strategic and Principal Managers may wish to make adaptations to suit local management structures and accountabilities.

2.   Key levels of responsibility

2.1       Client Organisation – Fleet Manager/Engineer

  • To advise the FRS Strategic/Principal Management board on the legal aspects of fleet operation and ensure full compliance with the law.
  • To be responsible for the fleet revenue budgets and setting appropriate standards for management and maintenance (planned and unplanned) programs.
  • To be the arbiter between the vehicle users and the contractors over all aspects of fleet management issues.
  • To be responsible for liaising with other agencies and departments both internal and external to ensure that a comprehensive suite of fleet maintenance and management support is achieved.
  • To maintain accurate records of all maintenance, inspections, defects and repairs carried out to the fleet and maintain all relevant legal documentation.
  • To be responsible for the management of all fleet associated contracts.

2.2       Maintenance Provider (In-House or External)

  • Will in accordance with the terms of the contract, service level agreement or local policy, inspect, maintain, and repair vehicles and provide a call-out service.
  • The maintenance provider has a responsibility to ensure that all activities conform with legal requirements and industry best practice.  The maintenance of records of all work carried out will be in accordance with the contract.
3.  Management responsibilities

Officer/Head of Department must accept that they have a responsibility to ensure that all fleet and equipment assets are operated safely and legally at all times.  They must ensure that, when a defect or malfunction is reported, the procedure for reporting and subsequent rectification of the defect is adhered to.

Officer/Head of Department must ensure that they have access to and are familiar with all policies and procedures relating to operation of fleet and equipment assets.

Officer/Head of Department must ensure that all drivers under their direct supervision are in possession of a current driving licence appropriate to the type of vehicle being driven.  A driver is responsible for reporting any changes in their health that may affect their ability to drive.  Similarly they have a duty to report any endorsements to their licence whether they have been accrued from driving in the course of their employment or otherwise.  Local policy may determine the need to report pending intended prosecutions.

3.1   Station/departmental manager

Have a Duty of Care for fleet and equipment assets and personnel under their supervision.  They must also ensure they are familiar with and have access to all policies relating to fleet and equipment assets.

3.2       Officer-in-Charge (OIC) of Appliance

  • Has a Duty of Care to ensure that drivers and crew members under their supervision behave in accordance with Core Values of the Service.
  • Check List (See 4.3) although not exhaustive is provided to assist in development of local policies for defect management.
  • The list of defects (see 9) is not definitive and OICs may still seek guidance from nominated specialists where the nature of the defect or the prevailing circumstances is special or unclear.
  • It is recommended that in cases where the driver, in view of their overall responsibility when on the road, is not prepared to use the vehicle, that a specialist authority is consulted and, unless the drivers concerns can be answered, the use of the vehicle must enter the "Prohibited" category
  • It is important, that having made the decision to report a defect that full and accurate information is provided, to allow the Service Technical Specialist (STS) to make an assessment of the defect, what spares and tools they may need in order to affect a repair.  There is also an advantage if there is a telephone contact number for the driver or OiC to ring for advice and guidance.
  • No fleet or equipment assets returning from the workshop following maintenance should be released into the service with outstanding defects, unless there are overriding reasons agreed by the FRS Fleet Engineer and explained to the end user.
4.  Driver's responsibilities

4.1  The FRS recognises the need to maintain driver competencies and for its drivers to be deemed professional.

Drivers and operators must comply with current legislation relating to the operation of fleet and equipment assets as laid out below.

  1. Ensure that the fleet or equipment assets which is being used is in a fit and serviceable condition.
  2. Comply with the regulations governing driving and the use of goods vehicles with respect to loading and unloading.
  3. Obey the regulations governing driving and the use of passenger carrying vehicles with respect to passenger safety and comfort.
  4. Observe the regulations governing the use of fleet and equipment with respect to operation and safety.
  5. Comply with the regulations in respect of driver's hours and the keeping of driver's hours of work records (where applicable).
  6. Ensure that they hold the correct, current DVLA licence to drive or operate the vehicle
  7. Ensure that they are competent to drive or operate the vehicle and that they are in possession of any internal licence or certificate required for the vehicle.

All drivers are required to behave within the core values of the FRS

4.2  Fire Service Vehicles - Use on Public Roads - Legal Requirements

The legislation covering the construction and use of vehicles contains a number of exemptions for vehicles and appliances used by the Authority in execution of their duties under the Fire Services Act 2004.

Whatever the standards laid down by vehicle operators for maintenance and servicing, ultimately it is the driver who is responsible for reporting on performance.  They, more than anyone else, handle the vehicle under load, which is the only time when a true test of vehicle performance can be obtained. The driver, therefore, must ensure that he/she reports in good time any defects or early symptoms of defects likely to infringe the law or affect the safety requirements.

4.3  The items for checking and reporting must include:

Road Worthiness Checks – All Vehicles (based on DVSA best practice guidance)

Drivers are responsible for carrying out the following checks prior to any period of use of a vehicle.

External:
  • Road Fund Licence – displayed and valid.
  • Glass – clean and undamaged.
  • Wipers - clean and undamaged.
  • Screen washers – functioning and aligned correctly.
  • Doors – security of doors when closed.
  • Locks – operation of locks and central locking.
  • Lights – clean, free from damage, working and aligned correctly.
  • Tyres – minimum of legal tread, free from damage, or foreign objects.
  • Mirrors – present, clean, free from damage and correctly aligned.
  • Exhaust – secure and undamaged.
  • Equipment/load security – securely fixed to vehicle.
  • External damage – vehicle free from external damage effecting road worthiness.
  • Cleanliness – vehicle clean.
Fluids:
  • Any leakage – check for evidence of any fluid leak.
  • All fluids to be filled with the correct fluid to the correct level.
  • Filler caps – present and secure.
Internal:
  • Seat belts – free from damage and operating correctly.
  • Seats and head restraints – secure and adjusted correctly.
  • Equipment/load security – securely fixed in vehicle.
  • Fire extinguisher – present and securely stowed.
  • Internal damage – vehicle free from internal damage effecting roadworthiness.
  • Cleanliness – interior clean.
  • Vehicle documentation – logbook and defect books present.
  • Fuel card – present and current (where applicable).
  • First aid kit – present and correctly stowed (where applicable).
  • Vehicle dimensions displayed - height/length/width/weight (LGV’s)
  • No smoking sign – displayed.
With engine running:
  • Steering – smooth operation.  Power steering functioning correctly.
  • Suspension – smooth operation.
  • Electrical faults – make sure all electrical components function correctly.
  • Dash warning lights – operative and extinguish once running (except parking brake).
  • Brake test (static) – check brakes are functioning correctly.
  • Brake test (moving) – check brakes are effective at low speed with gentle braking.
  • Air brakes – free from leaks.
  • Exhaust emissions and noise – not excessive.
  • Audible and visual warning devices - functioning correctly.
  • Communications devices (such as main scheme radio) – functioning correctly.
Footwear and Clothing

Suitable and appropriate footwear must be worn.

Prior to Commencing Journey

Refer to the CFOA Management of Occupational Road Risk policy.

5. Driver training

5.1  It is incumbent on all employers to provide sufficient training for drivers to ensure competency in the area of Defect Recognition and Reporting and to give awareness of the legal and safety obligations of drivers when in charge of vehicles.  This obligation and the need for all staff to take vehicle defects seriously, to act promptly not only in the reporting but the subsequent repair of serious defects, has implications for the safety of the public, passengers in appliances and, last but not least, the image and competency of an FRS.

Input of this subject should be given at all stages of career development from recruit training, through driver training, to management training. As individual FRSs  will  already  have  training  courses  that  cover  many  of  the  skills necessary, this section is aimed at attempting to list all subjects considered essential in driver skills and assisting Training Officers to put together a 'Fire Service Appliance Driver's Maintenance Course', that will supplement or support existing training programmes.  The aim should be 'to provide Fire Service drivers with the appropriate knowledge, skills and confidence.’

5.2  Reference Documents for Instructors:

  • Original Chassis Manufacturers' Handbook or Operators' Manual
  • Tyre Manufacturers' Handbooks (Section : Tyre Care)
  • DVSA Car and Light Commercial Vehicle Testing Manual
  • DVSA Heavy Goods Vehicle Inspection Manual
  • Department of Transport Guide to Maintaining Road Worthiness
  • Freight Transport Association Vehicle Engineering Handbook
  • CFOA Best Practice Manual
6. The aims and process of a defect reporting system 

The aim of a vehicle defect reporting system is to pass information from a driver or operator to a relevant contractor (workshop facility) to enable any necessary repair work to be actioned within an appropriate timescale.

The 'Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness' for commercial goods and passenger carrying vehicles, issued by the Department of Transport, includes advice about systems to report vehicle defects.

6.1  The process

This entails recognising a fault.  Road Traffic Legislation emphasises that 'Because a Driver is acting as a representative for the Operator he/she, as well as the employer, are deemed to be responsible for any infringement of the law'.  Therefore, training is essential to enable drivers to be confident and competent in recognising defects and classification.  Information given needs to be brief but sufficiently descriptive to assist a competent person to interpret the precise nature of the defect.

6.2 General

A robust defect reporting system must be in place to allow for a driver/operator to report fleet and equipment defects at any time.  The methodology to achieve this is down to local determination but it must ensure that it informs the appropriate people of the nature of the defect and is fully auditable.

The following points recognise the implications of operating a FRS fleet:
  • Wholetime Fire Station
  • A driver may drive a number of appliances or vehicles in a single shift.
  • A driver could go off shift leaving an appliance working at an incident.
  • The need for 24 hour, 7-day support.
  • Retained Fire Station
  • Not possible to check appliance immediately before answering emergency calls.
  • Limited amount of time for administration after a journey (the need to return to work etc.)
  • The need for 24 hour, 7 day support.
 c) Repair and maintenance facilities
  • In most cases a maintenance facility is remote from where the appliance is operating.
  • Where an independent repairer is engaged to attend to fleet and equipment defects, the control of maintenance costs suggests that all defects should be monitored by a department controlled by the FRS.
  • Operators of FRS fleets must perform regular and periodic inspections of fleet and equipment assets to ensure serviceability.  The frequencies of these periodic inspections are to be determined by the FRS dependent on the duty systems and cycles.

Within the FRS, a conflict could exist between a vehicle defect and an appliance defect.  Clearly a major fire pump that will not pump water is not a danger to other road users, but does render the appliance 'off the run' for operational needs and requires immediate attention or a reserve appliance.  Likewise, a broken passenger side window winder should be repaired when most economically convenient.

An early decision when setting up a defect reporting system for an FRS is to define which subjects could use joint reporting systems.  Already identified are vehicles and/or appliances, but due to safety legal implications connected with vehicles, these should 'standalone'.  Radio communications, operational equipment, buildings, and reporting sick for example, could all make use of joint systems, but it is important that these forms should remain as manageable as possible.

7.         The System for Reporting Defects 

7.1       Systems need to be robust, simple and have clearly defined lines of communication.

7.2      FRS Fire Controls are the well placed service within the organisation for the receipt and distribution of all defects.

7.3       A written copy is required which should include the reporter’s name and refer to details of the remedial work carried out.  Details need to be retained for examination for at least 15 months and as part of the vehicle’s maintenance record.  Consideration should be given to the maintenance of records for much longer period, even after vehicles have been disposed of from the fleet.  15 months will not be long enough should some form of litigation arise which could be years after an event.

Such a report may be:
  • Combined with a vehicle daily check sheet (nil defect system)
  • Combined with a vehicle running log sheet (nil defect system)
  • A separate form

Electronic generated form or field, provided that the data can be rendered tamper proof, can be stored for the required period and can be printed if required.

Some suggested lines of communication are:

  • Telephone with email confirmation to repairer
  • Facsimile to repairer
  • Computer input to repairer
Defect reporting process:
  • Identify and Log Defect (Defect/Form)
  • Report defect to Control/Repairer
  • Determine urgency with OiC
  • Replace vehicle if ‘Off the Run’

7.4       A suitable computer based system of reporting defects could be used that allows:

  • Direct reporting of any vehicle or equipment defect by the user
  • The allocation of the defect to a suitable “contractor” for rectification within a pre-determined timescale
  • Recording of all actions, costs and timelines associated with the defect
  • An audit trail of the entire process
  • The user or other drivers to monitor progress of the defect rectification
8.  Defect Reporting - Audit

It is paramount that once a defect is logged, its progress can be followed from the completion of the repair, confirmation of repair back to originator, and finally, proof of repair on vehicle records.

Systems may vary, ALL defects which render an appliance 'off the run' must be reported to a central reporting point as determined by the FRS.

All fleet and equipment asset records of maintenance and repair must be kept for a minimum of fifteen months.

9.   List of Defects Which May Prohibit Vehicle Use 

The following three conditions are options when determining the nature of the defect and the course of action.

  1. Stop immediately and investigate. If necessary, seek technical assistance.
  2. Off the run.  Seek technical assistance.
  3. Proceed with caution to complete journey.  Seek technical assistance at destination

Drivers as well as OiC’s should at all times be conscious of the condition and road worthiness of the vehicle whether proceeding to or returning from incidents or any other journeys.

10.  Fire service vehicles - legal requirements

The legislation covering the construction and use of vehicles contains a number of exemptions for vehicles and appliances used for fire-fighting purposes, or constructed as fire-fighting vehicles.  The following, however, is a list of References to Legislation and Guidance which does not exempt these vehicles and therefore areas where claims and prosecutions could still arise where infringements occur.

References
  • The Highway Code (revised 2007)
  • The Transport Act 1986
  • Road Vehicles Construction and Use (C&U) Regulations 1986 (amended)
  • The Road Traffic Act 1988 and the Road Traffic Act 1991 (amended)
  • Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989
  • Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) 1995
  • Drivers Hours and Tachograph Regulations 1985
  • Working Time Directive & Working Time Regulations 1998
  • Road Transport (Working Time) Regulations 2005
    • Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
    • Reporting of Injuries Disease and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR)
      • COSHH Regulations – Applies to fluids and lubricants.
      • Fire Service Circular No.7 1990 - reduce the spillage of water on the highway
      • Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness (DOT) for commercial goods and passenger carrying vehicles, issued by the Department of Transport.
      • CFOA Best Practice Document
      • PUWER and LOLER Regulations 1998
      • The Smoke Free (Premises & Enforcement) Regulations 2006
      • The Smoke Free (Exemptions & Vehicles) Regulations 2007