If the law says you have to have a licence to drive on public roads, why not the same for a forklift truck in the work environment? After all, both can create the same damage and fatalities.
But, as with many things in life, scratch below the surface of a simple answer to an obvious question and you discover yet more questions – and many that are difficult to answer.
At present, there are a number of official accreditation bodies that certificate training companies like my own. We in turn train drivers and provide those drivers that meet the exacting standards that are laid down by the accreditation bodies with a pass certificate – the equivalent, if you like, of a full driving licence.
But, unlike car drivers who in the main pay for their own driving instruction, most of those who learn to drive forklift trucks do so because their employer is footing the bill.
Unsurprisingly, employers want to see a return on their training investment and thus it is only right that they choose the training company that best meets their business needs and integrate the skills that they have paid for into the way they reward and retain staff.
As car drivers we take for granted that we will get fined if we break the law and can lose our licenses if we really go off the straight and narrow.
What we do not ever do is ask ourselves what it takes to police our driving habits.
For there to be an equivalent to a car driving licence forklift truck drivers the scheme would need policing… BUT at what cost, and who would pick up the bill? I doubt it would be government, and certainly I do not think individual drivers would be prepared to put their hands in their pockets.
The answer has to be employers but would they vote again for the government who lumbered them with what could run into tens of millions of pounds worth of additional costs that could be difficult for them to recoup?
OK, it could be argued that the five accrediting bodies in the UK could work more closely together but on the whole the system works well. This said, a common format for driver qualification certificates (not some over-expensive photo card system), and an auditing scheme by these bodies that ensures that the quality and quantity of training can be checked on an ongoing basis has to make sense.
The fact is that when it comes to contracting an external training company, the employer is in the driving seat. He first checks that the training provider is offering properly accredited training and then weighs up cost, service, quality etc., as he does with all of his business overheads and everything that his company buys.
Personally, I am not in favour of any major changes in legislation covering individual drivers, rather that employers are made more aware of their on-going responsibilities.
Fraudulent training certificates can be presented by a prospective employee but surely it makes sound business sense to always take up references and check all forms of qualifications? If you are not vigilant and thorough you leave yourself open to costly prosecution under numerous health and safety laws that are already in place.
Perhaps the way ahead is for those that use workplace transport training companies to demand best practice.
For instance, should not the support given by training companies extend far beyond operator training? Surely it makes sense that all tasks and responsibilities involved in checking training qualifications, keeping operator records as well as ensuring refresher training and full legal compliance become the responsibility of the customers chosen training provider? After all…this is what working in partnership is all about. n
Richard Shore is managing director of Mentor FLT Training. Tel: 01246 555222.