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Road safety: improving skills and standards

World Cement,

Over the past decade the Mineral Products Association (MPA) has supported a huge improvement in the safety of industry employees and, more recently, is focusing increasingly on improving site contractor safety. MPA has also worked to ensure that the skills and competences of employees should be sustained and enhanced through regular, good quality training. It is also MPA’s view that road safety is as important as site safety and the Association is taking steps to achieve the same high standards in both.

Nigel Jackson, Chief Executive MPA, said: “Drivers perform essential roles in our industry, they deliver over 200 million tonnes of materials and products annually, work on industry and customer sites during loading and unloading and have an almost full time interface with the public while using our road network. Driver safety and competence on the roads is absolutely critical.”

For this reason, MPA has worked closely with the training body, the Mineral Products Qualifications Council (MPQC), to introduce and develop training specifically geared to driver safety. The original EPIC card, now the Driver Skills Card, was designed to ensure that drivers received a common level of site safety awareness training and to minimise safety incidents on industry and customer sites. Over 30 000 drivers have been awarded cards to date and it has become an industry standard.

Soon after the introduction of the Driver Skills card (EPIC card) the European Union required the UK to implement the Drivers’ Certificate of Professional Competence (DCPC) and 35 hours of JAUPT approved training by September 2014, in effect one day of training annually. As a result, MPQC received JAUPT approval for its suite of Driver Skills courses, more recently complemented by a Vulnerable Road User Safety course, developed with MPA, and these courses have been further improved with input from industry transport professionals.

Updating driver skills and training is as important as other industry training and there are many good as well as poor DCPC courses available to support our industry drivers. There is actually a strong argument for specifying that DCPC training should include elements such as safe loading and unloading and vulnerable road user safety, but to date the government has not been prepared to take such action to improve the value of the DCPC initiative.

Nigel Jackson commented: “Without a doubt, drivers – like all other employees and contractors – will be expected to demonstrate their professional competence. Industry customers, increasingly, will expect the delivery supply chain to be effectively and professionally managed and drivers’ hours will continue to be limited for safety reasons. This process is not going to be reversed and actually provides an opportunity to improve the status of drivers and to highlight their skills and professionalism.”

HGV safety has, in general, improved for decades and this improvement has continued in recent years. The number of HGVs involved in accidents resulting in deaths and injuries declined in each of the three years from 2011 to 2013. For the five years from 2009 to 2013 the accident rate for HGVs was 28% lower than the previous five-year period (the rate of injuries per billion vehicle miles). Of course, there are numerous reasons for these improving trends and the actual number of road fatalities and injuries remains too high.

However, one statistic that has clearly got worse in recent years is the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured on our roads. In both 2012 and 2014 (the latest data) cyclist deaths and serious injuries were 30% higher than the five-year average from 2005 to 2009. Although there is no data indicating how many of these cyclist incidents were the result of collisions with industry HGVs, research in London has indicated a high proportion of cycling fatalities resulted from collisions with construction vehicles.

This general trend explains why there is now a much greater focus on vulnerable road user (VRU) safety training for industry HGV drivers and the fitting of additional safety equipment to industry HGVs. The MPA and its members have taken a leading role in action to improve VRU safety and actively support the Construction Logistics and Cyclist Safety (CLOCS) initiative, which is designed to apply a consistent approach to VRU safety for construction vehicles and deliveries throughout the UK.

Nigel Jackson concluded: “The many MPA members companies who have taken positive action to improve driver skills and training and add safety equipment to HGVs to protect other road users should be commended. These are really positive steps and it is essential that this momentum continues.”

Source: MPA.

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