The audit process generally follows the same procedure for all audit providers. An auditor has to remain unbiased, independent and report on all findings at the time of the audit. A consultant cannot assist in putting systems and procedures in place for an operator then carry out the audit.
Choosing an Auditor
The Traffic Commissioners always suggest using a trade association or suitable independent body. Both employ their own auditors and also use external consultants to carry out audits on their behalf. However, it is important that the auditor is qualified, competent, and experienced in transport management and auditing, which will make the whole audit process more beneficial to the operator. An audit will have to meet certain requirements in its content and the Traffic Commissioner usually supplies a list of the minimum requirements.
- Ask for information about the auditor, e.g. experience, qualifications.
- Request an example of the final report. You can see if it meets the Traffic Commissioners requirements.
The audit process usually takes a day on site then one day to write the report. The content and quality of the report will vary but what you can gain from the advice of an auditor during a visit can be extremely beneficial.
The cost of an audit varies greatly, but so does the quality of the service.
Before the Visit
An auditor should send you a list of what information is required and other items that may be needed on the day of the visit. They may also request information that can be checked beforehand, for example a fleet list so a vehicles MOT history can be checked on-line. This helps an auditor as information obtained in advance can be discussed during the visit.
Requesting an example of a report can assist in preparation as it will give you an idea of what questions will be asked and what documents need to be seen.
An audit visit generally takes a day on site and consists of answering lots of questions whilst looking at all the systems and procedures in place. The auditor is not there to criticise, but to give an independent, unbiased view of everything you are doing concerning transport management.
Unlike many other types of audits, a transport audit should always be carried out by someone with considerable experience in transport management so they will be able to offer advice on compliance and best practice during the visit. A good auditor will automatically do this. However, the report would still record what is being done at the time of the visit as it must be based on information and evidence seen on the day of the visit.
The visit will go into detail in the main areas of compliance, which is vehicle maintenance, drivers’ hours management and general operator licence management. If maintenance is carried out on-site, then the facilities would be checked.
The auditor should be competent and experienced enough to assess the requirements in all these areas of compliance and would be able answer all your questions and show you where to find the necessary guidance. They should also be able to interpret the guidance for your type of operation.
Temporary log in details may be requested for fleet management or tachograph analysis software which makes it easier for an auditor after the visit to write the report and check further documents instead of spending further hours on site. Always make sure passwords are changed or permissions rescinded after you receive the report.
You may be asked if some documents can be copied but make sure you are asked for permission, the auditor must comply with data protection requirements and any information copied must remain confidential. Again, this assists the auditor in referring to relevant documents in the report.
Remember, the auditor is an expert in Transport Management so make the most of their visit. They must report on what they find, and things may need attention but always make sure you ask how it can be put right.
Unlike other types of audits and auditors, Transport Auditors should be confident, competent, qualified and experienced to offer advice on managing a Transport Operation.
After the Visit
You should normally receive a completed report within seven days of a visit and the Traffic Commissioner usually asks for a report by a specific date or within 14 days after you receive the report from the auditor. If you do not receive a report in a timely manner, email the audit provider as the Traffic Commissioner will hold you responsible. Always respond to the Traffic Commissioner in the timescale they set.
The auditor may give you documents to use, handouts, training documents, websites to visit, guidance etc, to assist in compliance but they cannot be directly involved in the process of implementing any recommendations or write your response to the recommendations as it will question the auditor’s independence.
The response to the Traffic Commissioner is extremely important and should be made by the person responsible for transport management. What you are going to do about any recommendations must be described in full and it is best practice to include evidence that you are acting on any recommendations.
Never be disappointed if the Traffic Commissioner says that you must have further audits. Auditing is part of a good quality monitoring system. The best transport operators have regular audits, and it is a way they ensure that they are operating in a safe, legal and responsible manner.