Our industry is heavily regulated and, quite rightly, there is a constant push to maintain a healthy supply of highly skilled and proficient managers and drivers, all of which is aimed at ensuring that the vital role of logistics is provided and maintained in a safe and efficient manner.

Transport managers are required to be professionally competent and are expected to maintain their knowledge by undertaking continuous professional development (CPD) and, ultimately, may lose their ability to practice should they fall foul of the regulations. Drivers too are heavily regulated, having to observe strict hours of duty and needing to maintain their knowledge of road transport legislation through the implementation of the driver certificate of professional competence (DCPC). Drivers who fail to maintain the required standard are at risk of losing their ability to drive if the Traffic Commissioners decide to revoke their licences for major failings.

Now you might think I am just stating the obvious but there is a third, and vitally important sector of the logistics workforce, which, arguably, is much less heavily regulated. I am of course referring to the mechanics and engineers (vehicle technicians) who have to maintain the vehicle fleets to a high standard in support of the drivers and operators.

There have been calls for several years to make the role of vehicle technicians one which requires some form of accreditation to enable the individual engineer to prove that their capability and level of training is always maintained specially to encompass the rapidly changing technology which is employed in the design of modern vehicles. No such mandatory scheme has yet been implemented.

Don’t get me wrong. I am by no way implying that vehicle technicians are rogues or, to use the outdated nomenclature, ‘grease monkeys’. Sadly, as in all industries, there are exceptions but, thankfully, they are few and far between. The challenge, however, is to prove that the levels of skill needed to meet the requirements of existing and emerging technologies – especially hydrogen and electric vehicles – are met, so that operators can be sure that they are placing their trust in the hands of competent skilled technicians.

The truck and bus manufacturers have played their part admirably in ensuring that technicians employed by their franchised operators are continually trained to meet modern challenges and many have embraced the IRTEC registration scheme which is administered by the Institute of Road Transport Engineers (IRTE) and the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI). The IRTEC scheme is, however, voluntary and requires participants to be accredited following tests of their knowledge and skill level and is required to be renewed every five years. Calls for regulation to make such a scheme mandatory have not been heeded, but forward-thinking workshop providers have seen the benefit of putting their employees through the validation process.

Given that the scheme is not compulsory, what can the industry do to promote the adoption of such accreditation? The IRTE and IMI endeavour to generate interest in IRTEC but potentially the costs of joining and maintaining can discourage take up.

It is my belief that we in the public sector have the ability to assist in the development of wider adoption by two means. Firstly, should your organisation operate an in-house vehicle maintenance facility, you could actively seek to enrol your maintenance staff in the IRTEC scheme thereby raising the bar and providing the highest standards for vehicle maintenance to your user departments.

Secondly, in respect of organisations that have outsourced their vehicle maintenance to the private sector workshops, you could consider including accreditation, or a commitment to accreditation, to the scheme a condition of the procurement process and ensure it becomes a part of the contractual agreement from the successful bidder.

These two steps would ensure technicians maintain the highest standard of skill knowledge and raise the bar considerably encouraging the rest of the industry to follow suit.

Transport managers and drivers have to embrace CPD – is it time the industry made sure that vehicle technicians follow the same principle?

More information on the IRTEC standard can be found at https://irtec.org.uk