Graham’s Gab (May 2020)
Well this is certainly unprecedented times, and how many times have you either heard or said that of late? We are all living through history with huge financial and logistical challenges to all our businesses.
As is the case with most at present, I am not able to travel to meet members, potential members, and associate members. However, I was set a task from National Council to reach out and make personal contact with every AVRO member, quite a task, but in all honesty a very worthwhile one and a pleasure to undertake. As I write I have made personal contact with twelve full regions with two remaining.
I have always been very keen on hearing from the coal face and speaking directly with AVRO members (and as I say this is quite a substantial task, but I would not like to see it done any other way) I really enjoy being able to discuss not only the main issues of the day, being COVID-19, but many other issues which continue to face our industry.
With that I would just like to add at this stage my personal thanks to everyone who has picked up my call, called me back or replied to my e-mails, the information you pass to me I feed directly back not only to AVRO National Council but in the many meetings and communications I am involved in on a daily basis, it is invaluable information and it allows AVRO to fully represent its members.
Speaking with membership, in general terms there has been a downturn in business ranging from 65% to 80% - quite a substantial amount I am sure you will agree.
Many members have taken advantage of the Government Furlough scheme and I was pleased to see the UK Chancellor extending the scheme until 31st October 2020, although some changes are to be made in August 2020. On that it is worth noting at this point that AVRO has been in contact with HM Treasury and the Treasury Select Committee to call for more flexibility in the Furlough scheme, I am sure you agree that the Furlough scheme is key to support our businesses, but AVRO believes it needs more flexibility to support our members and their respected operations.
The information I have from my discussions with membership thus far is very similar to that of the results of the two AVRO surveys undertaken so far. This is invaluable information for AVRO to have and it is key that we have accurate facts and figures so again we can fully represent our members when in dialog with industry stakeholders and respected Governments and administrations. I cannot stress enough how valuable this information is and I cannot stress to you enough to please ensure you are completing the AVRO surveys as they come through to you, I appreciate you all have enough to be doing, but information, facts and figures is key.
On the topic of AVRO surveys, we have some results within this edition of AVRO News but we also have them published on the new AVRO website (www.avrouk.com) and I strongly encourage you to take five minutes to take a look, they make for an interesting read.
Continuing with my conversations with membership, I am discovering obvious concerns from members throughout the UK and Ireland which include:
Financial Assistance – from work providers etc.
Volumes (65% to 80% down) the feeling was that Police contractor volumes were being maintained, however the work type had changed and the more lower paying or none paying incidents such as section 165 removals had overtaken the more higher paying incidents such as RTC’s etc
Huge reductions in ‘club work’, particularly from the ‘big two’ who operate their own patrol and recovery fleets. Dare I say but the words ‘we are used when needed, dropped when not’ was told to me numerous times. Appreciation must be shown however to Green Flag and other work providers who have come forward with some kind of support for the operators.
Confusion over the Government business grants and whether they qualify or not?
Police Scotland have disputed the advice that AVRO, SURVIVE Group and the IVR have given in relation to carrying passengers, even though advice regarding this was sought from Government. Police Scotland via FMG have recently notified their contractors that it is illegal to carry passengers on the back of a recovery vehicle.
It remains AVRO’s opinion that during these unprecedented times you are permitted to carry passengers, to the nearest place of safety ONLY and that you do not exceed 30mph.
AVRO are currently working in conjunction with the Health & Safety Executive for further guidance in relation to the carrying of passengers and as soon as this is available, we will notify our membership immediately.
In relation to “carrying of passengers” a couple of our members have taken matters into their own hands and have fitted out their crew cabs with PVC separation screens. If you would like further information regarding this, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
There are obvious costs attached to constructing a safe zone in a vehicle as well as the sanitisation of it after each job. This is once again a cost that will have to be bourn mainly by the VRO, and this must be taken into consideration by Work Providers and given due respect!
It has been suggested that operators should at least charge for the sanitisation of the vehicle after each of the Work Provider’s passengers leave the recovery truck especially during this time and the risks to health I do not find that to be an unreasonable request.
During April, AVRO invited Work Providers including Call Assist, Britannia, Hadleigh, RAC and Green Flag among others, as well as representatives from NPCC (National Police Chiefs Council) and Met Police to join us in a virtual conference call. These were set up in response to our request for financial assistance for our members as well as discussing the current plight of VRO’s, the way out regarding an exit strategy and what the repercussions and changes will be for our Industry during this pandemic
We would like to thank those “Clubs” who have made a gesture of financial assistance but it also has to be said that the “big two” namely RAC and AA have to date offered no financial help whatsoever, all of which our members have noted, and to put it politely are “disappointed.”
Our aim is to continue to be pro-active in events such as Stakeholder meetings including members of the Home Office, continual dialogue with the Work Providers, Highways England, Police etc. and as the largest and longest running Association representing vehicle recovery operators we will continue to work tirelessly for the good of our membership and the wider industry.
Well another month has flown us by, and we are swiftly moving into Spring. I am sure many of you will have been busy during the relentless weather the UK and Ireland has had to brace and the terrible flooding that followed. I hope everyone got through it unscathed and that things are starting to settle back down to normality.
Membership renewals are underway, and I am pleased to see so many members renewing their AVRO membership and continuing to play their part in leading the conversation within our industry. This very much compliments the new members that have joined the Association of late, with being so heavily involved with membership it is great to see our membership going from strength to strength.
You will hopefully by now have seen the very comprehensive statement released by AVRO on Smart Motorways which we shared with our strategic partners at Highways England as well as across the industry and media. One point that we wanted to make key within the statement was education. We pressed home the point that not only does AVRO feel that general road users need more education when it comes to smart motorways but so do we as roadside recovery operators, in an emergency situation we all need to know exactly what is to be done and what process to follow and with that I repeat the following from the AVRO Smart Motorway statement:
AVRO recommends in the strongest terms that no roadside recovery operator attempts to assist or stop at the scene of any stranded vehicles, within a smart motorway, without first contacting Highways England and then following the instructions given to them on protocol and procedure by Highways England.
With that the results of the Government stocktake review into smart motorways has now been released and you can read AVRO’s statement regarding this over the page. The review takes in to account several very important issues and presents a plan of action for Government and Highways England to undertake. There is a lot of work to be done in respect of smart motorways but be assured that AVRO will continue to work hard with our partners at Highways England to ensure AVRO members are represented and their voice is heard.
I was very pleased to see that through some very hard work and deliberation with Highways England, AVRO has been instrumental in forming a Strategic Partnership Agreement between Highways England and the roadside recovery industry. I cannot stress to you enough the hard work that has been put into this by members of the National Council who have worked closely and professionally with Highways England to help bring this agreement into fruition. The benefits of this agreement are wide ranging and will benefit our members no end now and into the future. Look out for further details on this in the near future.
As you will know I travel the length and breadth of the UK and Ireland meeting with our members and taking part in many meetings and initiatives on our members behalf. It is a part of the work I do with AVRO that I really enjoy, getting out and about among members, seeing their operations and hearing from the coal face the true view of the industry.
One matter that comes up often are members who say to me “members just do not seem to work together anymore” and I have to say that really hits hard with me and my colleagues on National Council. Members working together is one of the founding principles of AVRO and to see just one member feel that we are not working together is one too many.
One of the key points that is raised is one member attending another member premises to collect a vehicle and there being what is felt to be excessive resistance, members are being asked by other members to present certification, insurance, drivers licences, employee training, vehicle maintenance records and so on. Now I am more than aware of health and safety requirements and the requirements of our members to protect themselves, but I do very much feel that we need a clear procedure here.
Health and Safety has moved on so very much in the past few years and it cannot be denied that safety has to be everyone’s first priority , but we must find a system here that works for all, protects you as the operator where the vehicle is being collected from, protects the operator collecting the vehicle and meets all the requirements of regulation and accreditation.
I would like to suggest that we as AVRO look to produce a system to cover this, I am sure we can, we already have the AVRO membership standards and to support that we have PAS 43, but before AVRO looks to create something I would like to hear from you, the membership on your views and thoughts on what should be included within any system.
My intention is to raise this at the monthly National Council meeting and discuss with my colleagues and take onboard their thoughts and suggestions, but as I have said I am very keen to hear from members on what they would like to see. For me I would like to put the meaning back into AVRO membership, AVRO membership alone should be all that is needed by one operator to another to be confident for that operator to come on to their premises and undertake their work, but as I have said I am well aware that we need to satisfy all regulation and accreditation.
What I would suggest in the meantime is to prevent any delays when collecting from another operator is to give them a quick call before attending and check what their process is for collection of a vehicle and things like inherited charges are they to pay, are they paid, condition of the vehicle and any documents that may be required. Just a suggestion but it may assist with not being delayed on arrival.
So with that I would ask any member with any view on this subject to please reach out and contact me, I can be contacted on 07864 673 533 and by e-mail at email@example.com I am always more than happy to discuss this topic and indeed any other with any member and I would very much welcome your input so we can look to put something together to restore the working together approach between our members.
To finish on this topic, I think it is very much worth noting that on the flip side of this debate is the members of AVRO that quite clearly do work together and indeed would go to the end of the earth for one another. This is always truly inspirational and a pleasure to see, I have to say at times I see members working so closely together you struggle to see where one ends and the other begins. They are a credit to the association.
So, with that I will look to further this subject and I very much look forward to your input, it will be greatly appreciated.
I cannot finish without touching on the ongoing situation with the Coronavirus, which I am sure you will all be aware is very much a developing situation. Firstly I must say it is imperative that you keep yourself and your employees fully up to date by following the HM Government advice which can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response and for our members in region fifteen advice by the Republic of Ireland Government can be found at https://www.gov.ie/en/campaigns/c36c85-covid-19-coronavirus/
You will have by now received various information from various sources, including that released to all members by AVRO and published in the centre pages of this edition of AVRO News. What is clear is that we must do all we can, and we must be vigilant and take the necessary precautious as advised by the relevant Governments.
It cannot be denied that we are all heading into unchartered territory, this is not something we have seen on such a scale and the level of disruption to normal life could turn out to be immense. AVRO will continue to consult with its partners within the industry and we will do our level best to provide you with any information or guidance we can as soon as we have it.