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How VBRA is changing the freight industry: an introduction 


Last week Logistics Magazine sat down with Thomas Hudd, National Technical Manager at NBRA and VBRA Commercial, to talk about the new Elite Truck standard that has the potential to change the freight industry for the better. 

Hi Tom. Let’s start by talking a bit about the VBRA back story and why it is important.  

The VBRA was formed back in the early 19th century when the trade association was involved in building wheels for coaches, which is where the name “coach builders” derives. That's when the trade association was formed. Then automobiles came along and it naturally evolved.   

So here we are today looking at body builders and repairers for commercial vehicles. So that could be anything from a long wheelbase, a sprinter, a high-top or refrigerated, all the way up to a tractor unit that costs £350,000 and tows 44 tonnes. Those are the types of members we have.  

What are the benefits of being a member exactly, Tom?  

The HR toolkit debt recovery is probably one of the biggest member benefits that's used.  We also have a partnership with Logistics UK, providing us with access to advice on logistics, from drivers to fleet managers, which some of our members have.  

We also collect data for commercial repairs so we can compare repair costs for labour rates for labour hours to additional costs to a load of other bits and pieces which we help our members with.  

Why build an elite truck standard for commercial vehicles?  

The issue stems from the car world. PAS 125 was first published in 2006 and BS 10125 was published in November 2014 and it took the industry by storm.   

If you're going to repair vehicles on the network for an insurance company, they mandated you have BS 10125. Which means that all your technicians need to be up to a certain standard and have certification to say they're competent. Their equipment needs to be serviced and calibrated and they need to have certain policies in place for waste disposal and public liability insurance.   

It's a good thing that it came into the industry, but for some reason it surpassed the commercial sector altogether. So, if you've got that £350,000 tractor unit and you want it repaired, Billy down the road can repair it with no qualifications whatsoever.   

Or it could go into an Elite Truck repair that has the standard that states that the panel technicians are certified and competent. The MET technicians are certified and competent. So all the technology that's on the commercial vehicles now, with ADAS and Driver Assist, it all needs to be put back into a place, as it was before, when it's involved in an accident. That's one of the reasons the Elite Truck came about.   

A colleague of mine, Gerry Braddock, who’s now 76, wanted that to be his legacy: to put a standard into the commercial industry. To mandate that when a vehicle is involved in an accident, it goes to a repairer that you know is competent to repair that vehicle.   

So this gives a lot of transparency over the transport and is one of the main reasons we've chosen to lift the standard and get it out into the industry.  

Is it gaining traction?  

We’ve currently got S&G Response [an automotive solutions provider] which wants to sponsor it, we've got Sopp+Sopp [complete accident management solutions] which wants to endorse it and create a network off the back of it. So it's gaining traction in a big way.  

What are the grades of Elite membership?  

You can have Elite Truck for truck and van – which means your large trucks and your vans will come under one banner – and it can either be structural or non-structural.  

So, if you're going to go for the structural standard, you need a jig and pulling equipment and certified training. You will also need 6mm welding certification to say that you can repair heavy damage.  

And then you've got the Elite Truck on its own because some of them specify that they're just repairing trucks.  

And then you have the Elite Van. We've got one member of this on this structure and he repairs ambulances and he wanted to demonstrate that he is at the top of his game. And now he can prove that.  

How many standards are there, Tom?  

There are six standards in all: three structural and three non-structural. And that's what we're putting out to industry.  

The standard is held on an ITAS platform with Tony Young [Managing Director at International Technical Automotive Systems]. They manage the Mercedes-Benz network in a similar fashion that if you're on the network, you need to have certification.   

The platform gives you a hierarchy of the business technicians, which technicians in paint, MET, panel and VDA. And behind those names they hold the certifications - when that certification is going to go out of date, three months prior to the expiry date they get an e-mail to say their certificate's going to expire.   

You need to get it renewed within X amount of time, otherwise that will flash up red and then we know that they've come out of standard after a certain period of time.  

And that happens for servicing equipment, insurance, certificates, calibration certificates, the lot. It doesn't matter whether you sublet a job, the person doing the sublet needs to have the right certifications to work on that vehicle. It gives transparency over the whole journey.  

It gives peace of mind and proper regulation. 

It does give peace of mind, but there’s also financials behind it.   

So, if you take your commercial vehicle to someone that hasn't got the Elite Truck standard, it doesn't mean to say they're not competent. But if they're not competent and it goes wrong, then it’s going to cost the client money because then the vehicle needs to go back in for rectification. The commercial vehicle is then off the road for longer.  

Are all your members up to the standard? Are they required to be?  

We've got members on the Elite platform that haven't got to the standard yet, but we're helping them achieve it.   

It doesn't cost them anything to go onto the platform. It costs them £600 for the standard and the £250 audit fee once they achieve the standard. So it's not a lot of money for the amount of work that goes into it.   

We think it’s going to get to a point where the insurance companies are risk averse, and they won't be able to avoid mandating the standard so when they're putting a vehicle into an accident repair and it's insurance paid. It's the way they work.  

Published On: 15/02/2024 14:00:00

 

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