ADR training wasted on drivers – ‘better suited to traffic staff’

Robert Wilcox, the managing director of Massey Wilcox Transport, has just earned himself a place high up on the list of people I wouldn’t want to work for.

According to this report Mr Wilcox thinks so little of his drivers’ capacity for learning that he believes that ADR training is wasted on them and they should only be trained ‘what to do in the case of an emergency’.

He goes on to say “Drivers are not the best classroom attendees, and whatever is crammed into their heads to get them through the exam is promptly forgotten a week later”. I wonder how Mr Wilcox thinks that his drivers managed to gain their existing professional qualifications, not to mention how he thinks they’ll cope with the new driver CPC qualification. However does he think they manage to drive his company’s vehicles competently and safely if they’re not capable of retaining knowledge for more than a week?

Mr Wilcox makes the case that the traffic staff should have the training because “after all, it’s their decision what is carried and when”.

That might be how Mr Wilcox operates his company, but its certainly not best practice and it’s a possible sign of a company operating on the fringes of legality. It’s for the driver, and no-one else, to decide whether it’s safe for him to take a load out. The driver bears the ultimate responsibility for the safety of his load, his vehicle and himself and no under-trained cretin in a traffic office 200 miles away is entitled to take decisions on his behalf.

It’s this type of attitude – ‘the traffic office knows best’ – which is behind some of the sloppiest and most unsafe practices in the transport industry: drivers’ hours infringements, speeding, overloading, health and safety breaches – all because of the ‘just get it done’ attitude in the traffic office and the pressure put on drivers to do what the traffic staff tells them to do.

Only yesterday I had a call from a same day courier who’d been sent in to an end user to collect a load on behalf of another transport company. The carriage of the load clearly required an ADR trained driver and both the consignor and the transport company were aware of that fact. The owner-driver, without any ADR training and without access to a DGSA was told that she could carry the load without ADR training. Fortunately the driver phoned a friend for advice and was referred to me; I’m not a DGSA but it was clear to me straight away that she shouldn’t be carrying the load.

I’ve seen this happen more times than I can remember – the traffic office numpty mutters something about a load being limited quantities that can be carried without training, ignoring the distinction (whether accidentally or not) between limited quantity packages and small loads. While an experienced commercial driver will (hopefully) know enough to tell the traffic office where they can stick their hazardous goods, the same day courier with a year or so experience driving small vans might well take the word of the traffic staff, or of their customer, as gospel.

I’ve had the exact same experience myself as a courier many years ago. I was sent (by the third largest transport company in the UK) to collect hazardous goods from one of their customers and told that no ADR was required. The second time I went to collect from the customer they asked me if I was ADR trained and virtually threw me off the site when I told them I’d been told that it wasn’t required.

I’d agree with Mr Wilcox that the traffic staff need at least as much ADR training as the drivers, but that doesn’t mean that the drivers need less training. I’d argue that there should be a ‘supervisory’ level of ADR training, above that of a driver but not necessarily to the level of a DGSA, and that every transport operation should have a member of staff trained to that level involved in the planning, organisation and despatch of every load containing dangerous goods.

Posted under Hazardous Goods - ADR

Posted by Alec at 6:02 pm, September 23, 2008

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3 Comments so far

  1. Robert Wilcox added on  November 7th, 2008 at 18:48

    Having just read Alec’s comments from the 23rd September, I would like to respond.

    I don’t know who Alec is or how long he has worked in the transport industry, and therefore cannot comment if I would consider him suitable for a position in my company or not. But what I do have knowledge of are HGV drivers. After 35 years I certainly know a good one from a bad one and what can and cannot be expected of them.
    Some of the best drivers I have had could bearly read or write, and have one now that finds his way around by comparing the shape of the words of a destination to the road signs. He is a very productive driver and quite happy to be working for someone who can live with and help him with his problem.

    But the content of a ADR course is beyond him. Even the ones who can pass with no problem do not have a retentive memory. Its not usual for these men to leave a collection point with ADR product on board and yet fail to ensure they have a Trem Card.

    I stand by what I say. In the vast majority of cases the decision of what a haulier is going to carry on his truck is made by the traffic management. Providng the product is covered by the driver’s ADR license then that is not a problem. The vehicle or trailer is often loaded in the driver’s absence, and a driver turning in at 4am in the morning is highly unlikely to open up his vehicle to see what is stacked next to what.

    These are all decision made by trained traffic management and therefore it is these people would really need the intensive training to ensure the load is safe both in terms of the mixing of volatile chemicals, and the packaging limits.

    The driver should have concentrated training on what to do in an emergency, and how to interpret ADR labels amd packaging to ensure the product comes within his license remit.

    With regards to the driver CPC training. I would like to point out to Alec that I am currently training my own in house trainer, who will from the September start date, be providing on the job training to each and every driver in excess of the laws requirement of 7 hours per year. in addition to taht will continue with the RHA icon training programme taken up some 3 years ago. So I take exception to his comment that I operate my company “on the fringes of legality”. I abide by the laws controlling every aspect of operating a HGV including ADR. My traffic staff are ADR trained despite the fact is is not a legal requirement and that we only carry printing ink and arable fertiliser. They are also time served drivers and take exception to his calling them “under trained cretins”. Nobody is taking away a drivers need to ensure his vehicle is safely loaded, infact i can only wish some would pay more attention to this requirement.

    I can assure Alec that my drivers are not expected to exceed the legal limits of anything, and I would be very pleased to show him my drivers tachograph records, both analogue and digital, infringement reports signed off by the driver concerned,DGSA annual reports, maintenance records, infact anything he would care to inspect. The only problem is that I don’t think he would get past the “under trained cretins” in the traffic office in one peice.

    Alec’s comments regarding drivers being asked to colect ADR goods they are not licence to handle, reflect the corners that some operators both large and small are prepared to cut. Please do not count me amongst them without first qualifying your asumptions.

  2. Alec added on  November 8th, 2008 at 10:19

    Your response seems to only confirm the opinion I had formed about the way you operate your company. Drivers who can’t read road signs, drivers who ignore basic requirements of ADR and traffic office staff whom you seem to imply would resort to physical violence if anyone dared to question their wisdom.

    I suggest you pay more attention to the legal requirement that your drivers are competent to carry out their work in a safe manner and spend less time voicing your opinion that they actually require LESS training.

    As I made clear in the original posting, I entirely agree that traffic office staff require better training in ADR, I just disagree completely that drivers need less training – and the United Nations and the DfT seem to share that opinion.

  3. Robert Wilcox added on  December 16th, 2008 at 16:26

    According to you then Alec anyone who hasn’t received the high level of education you so obviously enjoyed should be denied the right to gainful and properly paid employment. I don’t judge my people by their acedemic skills as you seem to do, and am not prepared to write them off if they are able to carry out their duties in a fit and proper manner. As for the traffic office staff, please remember it was you that voiced a derogatory opinion of them, and why should they sit back and take that from you.

    All my drivers who handle ADR have received the proper training, along with traffic office staff,and will continue to for as long as they remain in my employ. As far as I am aware this is still a free country and until such times that we are forced to employ only a Pseudo Aryan race that you purport to, I retain the right to form and voice my own opinion of the content of ADR training for drivers.

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