White Van or White Knuckles? : Mick Jackson

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At the time of writing this column, we have another surge of interest in the popular press and TV on “Scourge of the White Van Man”. No it’s not the latest episode of Scooby Doo, it’s another initiative aimed at that much maligned figure, the urban delivery/service driver.

This time the story revolved around the welcome introduction by the Department for Transport of the SAFED (Safe and Fuel Efficient Driving) programme, specifically for vans. This follows on from the successful (although not followed up) pilot of SAFED for LGVs a couple of years ago.

In this media campaign, the focus on driving skills meant that discussions soon turned to ‘who is the worst driver – White Van Man, sales reps or mums in Chelsea Tractors on the school run. End of the chance for serious exposure, especially with the delivery driver being such a visible and soft target.

The basic issue of course is that for six weeks every summer, the school run problem disappears. The issue of the urban commercial driver however is not going to go away. Indeed, if anything it is likely to get worse. We must recognise that part of the issue is delivery but part is also vehicles who service offices and shops in city centres.

Fifteen years ago, water in offices used to come from the tap or those strange unhygienic water fountains that remarkably seem to have survived the nanny state and are still found in schools. Water at work however now comes almost universally from “the water cooler” and these need to be replenished – just one example of the changing world.

Around a year ago we at Skills for Logistics found ourselves in the pages of The Sun, among other organs as we introduced a new NVQ “Carry & Deliver Goods”, aimed at delivery drivers. Predictably it got the same coverage as the SAFED introduction.

This has set me thinking about the role that skills and skills development can play in a slightly more reasoned debate about urban commercial drivers.

There is no doubt that the best way to “upskill” these drivers is to put them through an apprenticeship, based on the Carry & Deliver Goods NVQ and supplemented with training on customer service, industry knowledge, SAFED and health and safety considerations. More enlightened organisations will follow that route but realistically, many companies will consider such training to be over the top.

Given that, is there a quick and easy way to determine the skill set that needs to be developed for central urban delivery? It is something we at Skills for Logistics need to set our mind to.

If you have any views or any experience to feed this debate please get in touch on mick.jackson@skillsforlogistics.org.

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