Having completed all the relevant forms, read the guidance notes and been granted your licence, it's imperative that you keep your documentation in a logical filing system that enables you to find what you're looking for quickly. Paperwork that is unceremoniously heaped on your desk or dumped on the floor says much about you, and certainly wont help your case where trying to run an efficient operation is concerned. Imagine the feeling of panic if your friendly VOSA officer knocks on your door to carry out a routine visit and inspection of your files, and you just aren't prepared. Well, this can be all too real if your filing system does not come up to the mark.
To wrap up this section on Operator Licensing, we've laid out below what we believe to be the most efficient Best Practice in keeping your record/filing system available to those who need to access it, in a fashion which embodies true professionalism.
A flow chart is a critical part of your toolkit, it should be on prominent display showing all vehicles with the following information: -
- Month of MOT
- Next Tachograph Inspection date
- PMI inspection dates
- Service Frequency
Remember, a flow chart is a schedule, it is not a rough guide. The PMI dates on the flow chart should be adhered to rigidly. As each PMI date has been completed, highlight each date on the chart, which will confirm to all relevant staff (including drivers) confirmation that the inspection has been complied with. An example of a flow chart is available for download below.
We recommend that all transport files are kept in a filing cabinet with all vehicle files in registration order. We also suggest that all legal documents are kept seperated within each file inside a cardboard folder (open type), and documents such as MOT, Tachograph test forms, Plating certificate inserted in a clear plastic 'poly pocket', with all PMI sheets kept in date order next to them inside the cardboard folder. The remainder of the drop file should be made up of suppliers data, such as windscreen, tyre, recovery, warranty and other relevant paperwork for each vehicle, also in date order. This will effectively give you an audit trail of the vehicle, enabling you to keep track of issues that re-occur with individual vehicles.
If you don't wish to use drop files, then a lever arch file for each vehicle is also a sensible method of storage, although we still advocate seperating all legal documents from general documentation, and again we recommend keeping everything in date order.
One last item that is applicable to each vehicle are defect sheets. Again (if using a drop file system), we suggest keeping these in date order, and kept together inside a clear plastic 'poly pocket'. The defect sheet file should be kept in the drop file with all supplier invoices and miscellaneous paperwork applicable to that vehicle.
There can be no doubt in our mind that having an ordered/tidy filing system will pay dividends in the long run as things are easier to find, and most importantly, if you do get a visit from your local VOSA inspector, he/she will view you and the manner in which you run your operation by the tidy and efficient manner in which you maintain your records.
Whereas we appreciate you're not the human resources department, it is imperative you maintain personnel files as stringently as the HR department does. This will effectively mean every item of information from the day the driver joins you, including copies of his/her application form, induction form, training (including H&S), disciplinary paperwork and holiday request forms.
The best system here is to purchase a proper file system type to suit your needs. Most suppliers have a variety of systems to match all requirements, however, we recommend a drop file system which has the compartments for each months tachograph charts/digital download data slips.
Similarly to the vehicle file system we advocate above, we suggest using an open type cardboard folder to keep all the drivers personal details in, such as application, induction and training records, with all other documentation kept within the drop file in date order, including disciplinary documentation, holiday request forms etc.
Be aware, that retaining personal data on your drivers requires you to maintain stringent security relating to the same, we would insist here that all Driver Files are kept under 'Lock and Key' in your office. If at any time you have a requirement to discard any of your drivers personal information, it should be shredded.
VOSA recommend that you check driver licences once a quarter. When undertaking this important aspect of record keeping, ensure you have a full copy of the drivers license (plastic card and paper element). Remember to sign and date the copy of the license to confirm you've checked and noted any additional offences that may have occured since the last check was made. Once you've obtained a copy from every driver, place the same in their personnel file.
If you have a problem with any of the paperwork make a note, and ensure the note is placed in the appropriate vehicle/driver file. examples of operational factors that may require you to do this are listed below: -
- PMI late due to VOR as a result of accident damage
- Vehicle recovered to suppliers for lengthy warranty work. It maybe in an instance such as this, that you've arranged for the supplying dealer to carry out a PMI that falls due whilst the vehicle is away from it's home base; in cases such as this, ensure the PMI sheet is returned with the vehicle, and note the dates the vehicle was away and that the PMI was completed by an outside dealer and the reason
- If your vehicles are due 8 weekly, but (for whatever reason) a PMI on a vehicle is missed and is completed a week late, you must put the schedule back on track to the next official date. VOSA inspectors are aware these things happen, but want to see that you've picked up on it and rectified the situation. However, don't make a habit of it