Transport for London is facing accusations of abuse over its wielding of FORS accreditation power.
In a shocking move, the RHA has threatened legal action against the organisation, arguing that Transport for London’s (TfL’s) monopolisation of FORS authority is arresting the emergence of competitor schemes.
In particular, the association cited TfL’s contracting out of FORS to Aecom as a major roadblock to the promotion of compliance.
After the contract changed hands, FORS introduced membership fees, which may have urged members against pursuing accreditation in similar schemes.
The establishment of FORS as the preeminent scheme in sectors like construction has led to its domination of the safety accreditation zone. Similar schemes that are not backed by TfL, RHA says, are at a crippling disadvantage.
In an effort to shed light on the situation, chief executive of the RHA, Richard Burnett spoke to Commercial Motor. He said:
“Unless TfL gets behind something and promotes it, or allows the use of FORS branding, then you won’t get construction companies recognising it if you turn up with the sticker on your truck. Without TfL’s backing it’s worthless.”
FORS Accreditation – A level playing field?
For over 18 months, the association has been in talks with Aecom. The intention was to broker a deal that will ensure RHA members will not be charged fees to join FORS (besides that for the initial audit). Between the two parties a plan had apparently been agreed, and was due to be announced at the CV Show in April 2017. However Aecom, according to Burnett, reneged at the last minute. Burnett continued:
“This was never about making money. It was about creating a good deal for our members. It feels like we’ve been deliberately distracted and kept busy for two years so that we couldn’t get equivalence out into the market.
“If TfL will not back an equivalent scheme, or the RHA is unable to offer its members FORS as part of equivalence, then we’ve got no choice but to look at this from a competition law perspective. We need confirmation that TfL is going to look at this quickly.”
Accusations of Abuse: The Response
In a letter to TfL commissioner Mike Brown, Burnett made the association’s position clear. If the TfL would not admit to the FORS monopoly and commit to diversifying, the RHA would commence legal action.
TfL’s Director of City Planning, Alex Williams, argued the point in a letter to Burnett. He said:
“Our practices are not anti-competitive. We are clear in our contracts that we will consider reasonable alternatives to FORS and welcome other participants as providers of fleet operator compliance audits.”
Meanwhile, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) also related the situation as something like a cartel.
A spokesman for FORS, however, rejected the accusations outright. He said:
“The operating community and service buyers are free to decide which accreditation scheme they choose to recognise and uphold.
“FORS reacts to changing legislation and other market trends in order to deliver a reliable, up-to-date accreditation scheme that promotes best practice in safety, increases efficiency and supports sustainability.”
Despite the barrage, the growth of FORS is unlikely to be stunted any time soon. The question of compliance is becoming an increasingly foggy issue. Indeed – many operators are unsure as to what the future holds. Thanks to the coming of Earned Recognition, the introduction of historical drivers’ hours fines, Brexit and of course the continued success of FORS, operators are advised to undertake comprehensive research as a matter of urgency.
This would be a good place to start: