FORS (Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme) has insisted it remains the safety compliance scheme of choice for ‘specifiers’ when they are allocating major contracts to businesses operating LCVs.

Following a disagreement with the FTA (Freight Transport Association) last year over the viability of two best practice accreditation schemes serving the LCV industry, FORS claimed the standards of the FTA’s Van Excellence initiative did not match its own.

Steve Agg, chairman of FORS’ Governance and Standards Advisory Group, told What Van? at the organisation’s Members’ Conference 2017 in October, that the FTA is not recognised by the largest contract specifiers such as Transport for London, the HS2 (High Speed) railway project and tunnel construction firm Tideway.

But FORS concession manager John Hix said the organisation would be happy to work with Van Excellence as one of its associates if it could meet the FORS standards.

“We would recognise them (FTA) as a certification body,” explained Hix. “We would issue accreditation based on FORS audits.”

In the face of criticism that it remains heavily focused on London, FORS, which was run by TfL (Transport for London) from its inception in 2008 until 2014, when it transferred to be operated as a concession by the FORS Community Partnership (FCP) led by AECOM, said its membership now covered 2,000 locations across the UK.

Hix claimed FORS provides free at the point of use management training and funded driver training to its members nationwide but admitted this “thins out as you go north”.

FORS launched a Light Commercial Vehicle Working Group in the summer to better serve the needs of the operators of the 50,000 LCVs registered on the scheme and has called for suggestions as to how to improve the standard for van operators – such as further rolling out the Van Smart suite of training and e-learning tools.

 “It looks at the benefits package,” Hix said, “do we have enough for LCVs? FORS must be of value to operators.”

He added that one of the challenges was to embrace owner-drivers and franchisees – delivery van drivers who are effectively working on a self-employed basis – and suggested one solution could be through monitoring inspections remotely through apps. Hix pointed out that Silver and Gold accreditations to the scheme, which advance on the entry-level Bronze membership, are already processed remotely.

In July FORS introduced new guidance on infractions to cover members found to be breaching best practice requirements. FORS can suspend or terminate membership of the scheme but offers a route back through compliance with “an enhanced audit”.

FORS emphasised that accredited businesses should consider scheme membership not just as a badge to get work but as representing a culture of best practice within their LCV fleet.