One of the things that we spend a lot of time on here is the practalities of keeping our publicly available vehicles on the road, and in a condition which we're happy to use. For the majority of our volunteer drivers their own sense of pride keeps their vehicles in good clean condition whenever they are driving for us and we can rely on their standards but for the vehicles we own a slightly different set of standards apply.

The recent arrival of our mini-bus gave us an opportunity to look again at how we maintain the vehicles which we own ourselves. In order to carry members of the public we have to hold permits issued by the Community Transport Association (of which we are members) and quite rightly the CTA requires a high standard of maintenance. Both of our vehicles are inspected every 8 weeks by qualified mechanics and assessed against the criteria which the government, through the DVSA and the Traffic Commissioners, requires all commercial vehicles (such as busses) to be reviewed against. This check takes in more than 50 features of the vehicle to make sure that it is is safe to use. A formal record is kept of each inspection, and anything which is flagged by the mechanic as requiring remedial work is followed up.

What's more, every single time the vehicle leaves home a 'walk-around' check is performed by the driver to check that it is roadworthy. These checks are incredibly important as they ensure that every time a Volunteer Cornwall vehicle goes out any passengers we carry are kept as safe as they can be. Ultimately the driver, whether a member of staff, or a volunteer has the final say on whether they feel happy that the vehicle can be used.

In addition to making sure that the vehicles are mechanically sound and safe to use we are also committed to making sure that they are comfortable for both passengers and volunteers. With that in mind we do regularly have both vehicles cleaned professionally so that they have never done too many miles since a proper clean-up.

Lastly we always want to make sure that our minibus and accessible car have the right equipment, be that suitable tie-downs, ramps and lifts, first aid kits, or passenger comfort aids. Anything that goes onto our vehicles as equipment has to regularly be checked and if necessary serviced.

All of this adds up to a significant undertaking for us, and for any organisation serious about providing transport assistance to the public. Those of us in the not-for-profit sector work within a  lighter touch regulatory regime to commercial sector transport providers but even when vehicles are not run for profit certain standards still have to be met if you want people to take your service seriously. We manage these costs and work hard to keep prices as low as they can be without compromising these standards and we are helped out considerably in this by a group of local contractors who all play their part.

If you've ever wondered where the costs of hiring a vehicle which claims to be run 'not-for-profit' go, keeping them roadworthy, clean and properly equipped is a significant part of those costs however proactively they are managed, and if you currently run, or are thinking about running a community sector vehicle and want to talk to us about replicating our maintenance arrangements for your own vehicle please feel free to get in touch.