Shepherd Distribution Services – ‘Industry leading training and safety through continuation of FORS gold’

Shepherd Distribution Services – ‘Industry leading training and safety through continuation of FORS gold’

We are a privately owned Sheffield based company; our business offers specialist group-age services to the metals and engineering sectors along with palletised distribution through our Palletline member network.

Laurence Abel is Managing Director at Shepherd Distribution and says that as a business ”Shepherds” take pride in the way they approach their work, offering the best training whilst adopting a safe working environment in which its employees, particularly those involved in transport operations, carry out their duties in a professional manner whilst taking account of internal and external factors including road driving risk.

As a specialist operator based in the heart of the steel industry of Sheffield; some of its customer base manufacture product for use in the construction industry. Shepherds carry out deliveries into London and became FORS bronze approved back in 2012 after a thorough on-site audit which was passed first time.

FORS has developed over the years; especially the training and safety aspects and these have been extremely beneficial to the business. In line with FORS requirement we undertake the E-Learning modules which cover a host of very important areas, i.e., Work related road risks and vulnerable road users; security and counter terrorism; fuel; emissions and air quality.

Our CPC modules for all our drivers include Safe Urban Driving and LoCITY; we team up with FORs approved assessors/companies to help deliver our CPC courses.

We gained FORS silver in 2014 and the prestigious Gold accreditation in 2015.

As an accredited FORS company we compile literature for our customer base; we ensure our suppliers are aware of all the requirements of FORS when we are purchasing fleet; meaning equipment meets the specification from day one thus removing the need to carry out any retro fits. FORS is promoted on company literature such as brochures, our website and safety presentations.

FORS has given us a structured approach to improve driver training and fleet safety to ensure we sustain our Gold accreditation – Mark Makings Site Operations & Compliance Manager

We believe that the training tools available free through FORS are not just for drivers but can be used in all aspects of the business including office-based personnel.

Our driver handbooks and Health & Safety manuals are refreshed on a regular basis and are updated with any legislative changes and incorporate several FORS lead initiatives.

We have two members of the Management team who are FORS practitioners: our Head of Compliance Mark Makings and also our senior driving assessor Paul Moorhouse.

Mark became a FORS practitioner in 2017 and Paul during summer 2018.

Paul facilitates and delivers the E-Learning modules to all drivers and says ”This gives the drivers valuable information which can be used practically during their day-to-day roles

We have seen improvements in many areas of the business; our accident rate has dropped along with the number of PCN’s issued. We have also seen a decrease in our output for CO2, NOx & PM10. By raising awareness through training and education along with a greater focus on root cause analysis /corrective actions the results have become evident.

The table below demonstrates these improvements



CO2 (Tonnes) – Heavy vehicles PM10 (kilograms) – Heavy Vehicles NOx (Kilograms) – Heavy vehicles Number of PCN’s for the fleet
2018/19 2739.51 68.72 3903.26 36
2019/20 2375.68 54.81 3113.03 25
2020/21 2356.21 56.14 3188.86 24
Percentage improvement 13.99% improvement from 2018/19 18.31% improvement from 2018/19 18.30% improvement from 2018/19 33.3% improvement from 2018/19

Driver health & fitness reviews are carried out and we actively encourage staff to inform management of any issues that could have an impact on their driving. We also have a comprehensive absenteeism database for monitoring trends.

Shepherds continue to invest a great deal of time informing our staff on the risks of driving and operating vehicles, this is normally done by toolbox talks; one to one meetings in the training room with our training team; memo’s and the use of our onsite TV system One-Lan.

In the past five years we have had a very low staff turnover rate, we have always managed to maintain a steady number of staff however, this year seems to be different. The Brexit / IR35 and COVID-19 issues have caused a real problem with staff retention this year, this has been mainly due to the lack of skilled staff in our industry. It is already widely known that the shortage of HGV drivers is a problem across the county, and we have experienced some of our drivers leaving to work in other industries. We have however implemented a number of initiatives to stabilise things by linking up with the Department for Works and pensions; use of kickstart program and growing our own drivers using a warehouse to wheels approach and linking up with local driver training schools to help drivers ascertain their licence acquisition.

From an environmental viewpoint we are exploring the possibilities of alternative fuelled vehicles and are conducting a trial with Sheffield City council who have asked a number of businesses within the region to conduct electric van trials.

It’s now over 6 years since we gained the prestigious gold accreditation.

Our driver academy is going from strength to strength as we now have a constant feed of potential new drivers who can be inducted in the ‘Shepherds & FORS way’.

2022 will see us continue to develop the academy and focus on many other initiatives such as the Direct Vision standard (We have permits for all our vehicles); working with key suppliers on Forklift trucks / electronic pallet trucks to further improve our safety and Eco aspects; whilst from a vehicles perspective the Electric vehicle trails will continue.

Managing Director Laurence Abel (pictured above right) is proud to be a FORS gold accredited member and believes that it demonstrates to customers; suppliers; vulnerable road users and the public alike Shepherds commitment to people safety and environmental matters.

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