An introduction to training in the Roadside Assistance and Recovery sector

The National Training Scheme

Initially introduced for the Highways Agency Sector Scheme 17, as a viable alternative to NVQ’s, the National Training Scheme (NTS) has been adopted by the majority of the industry as best practice, setting the benchmark in rescue and recovery training. When the IVR was given the task of administering the training scheme on behalf of the NHSS17 it established a new company, IVR (UK) Limited, to carry out the role. Robust systems have been introduced to monitor training and a national database, to record all training carried out under this scheme, was introduced. However, it has to rely heavily on the professionalism, dedication and commitment of the instructor’s to deliver quality training at all times.

Following successful completion of the ITSSAR Cat.1 course, the gateway to being an instructor within the UK recovery sector, instructors will be given IVR Level 1 status until they have completed the process of upgrading to level 2.

Instructors themselves are subject to assessments to ensure that their instructor skills are maintained at a high standard; in addition instructor re-qualification takes place every five years.

The completion of documentation is vital for a quality system and IVR (UK) has introduced a number of documents and forms that will require correct and full completion.

IVR (UK) has also put in place a Quality Management System, audited against ISO 9001:2008, to ensure that a robust and quality system is achieved.


Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act states; Employers have a legal responsibility to ‘provide such information, instruction, training and supervision to ensure that employees can carry out their jobs safely’.  This duty includes the training of vehicle recovery operators, technicians and their supervisors.

Whilst the standards deal with novice vehicle recovery operators, the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations expressly states the need for the ‘training, testing, certification and authorisation to operate’ of all operators of equipment supplied by the employer (recovery vehicles and ancillaries are included in this statement) irrespective of their previous operating experience.  However, it should also be remembered that recovery vehicles are expensive, and that their full potential can only be achieved by ensuring that operators are correctly trained to standards that will, if continually practised, not only ensure safety, but also increase efficiency as a direct result of the training given.

Selection of Operators

Careful consideration must be given when selecting any potential operator and it is recommended that those chosen should have a mature attitude and be reliable and capable of doing the job in a safe and responsible manner.  This is the responsibility of the employer but instructors must ensure that course attendee’s meet these criteria.  Selected operators should have a reasonable level of numeracy and literacy skills and have a reasonable degree of physical and mental fitness and in cases where an operator may have a handicap or disability then medical advice must be obtained.

In cases where a new employee to a company claims to have been previously trained, proof of such training should be provided, and positive steps taken to ensure that the individual is capable of operating the vehicle safely within his/her new environment.  In such cases it is advisable that the new employee is given some form of training to familiarise him/her with the vehicle type, operations and procedures.

Instructor Qualifications

Instructors must be trained in instructional techniques and methods, and in the assessment and testing of operators.

In addition they should be experienced, trained, tested and certificated operators in the module on which they are required to give instruction.

It follows that no matter how efficient an instructor may be in instructional techniques, the safety and effectiveness of any instruction given to trainee operators is equally dependent upon the operating skill and job safety knowledge of the instructor

Stages of Operator Training

It is essential when training vehicle recovery operators that three stages of training are always included, these are;

  • Basic Training: The basic skills and job/safety knowledge required for the safe and efficient operation of the particular vehicle.
  • Specific Job Training: Knowledge of the working environment and experience of any special needs applications, and ancillaries, etc.
  • Familiarisation Training: Actual operation on the job under direct/close supervision.

Who should carry out the Training?

Basic Training: Should be given by a qualified instructor, and should always take place in a controlled environment set aside specifically for training delivery.

Specific Job Training: May, where practicable, be combined or integrated with basic training if required, particularly in the case of experienced but "non-trained" operators.

Familiarisation Training: May be given by the operator’s normal supervisor.  However, consideration should be given by the company to the supervisor’s ability to impart knowledge in the correct way to ensure learning takes place. Familiarisation training should take place following basic and specific job training on-the-job and under actual working conditions.

Alternative training may be given in addition to the above stages where necessary and these include;

Conversion Training:

May be given to operators following basic/specific job training, where conversion from one type of recovery vehicle to another is required, e.g. Underlift to Transporter etc.

Refresher Training:

Periodic refresher training is recommended so as to identify any bad operating practices, and to help maintain safe systems of work, and training standards.

It is also essential that where new procedures, applications, ancillaries, or vehicles are involved further training should be given to familiarise operators with these additional/new functions.


Instructor / Trainee / Vehicle Ratios

A maximum of four students per instructor to one vehicle is recommended for practical training purposes, and this ratio should not be exceeded.

Duration of Training

The duration of training will vary depending upon the following points:

  • The type of course
  • The objectives to be covered during the course.
  • The ratio of students to instructor to vehicle (not to exceed 4 -1-1).
  • The previous experience and learning capability of each trainee.

It is essential that in all cases sufficient time be allowed to permit the training objectives for each stage of training to be achieved.

Training Area and Facilities

Basic training may be carried out on the employer's premises, at a suitable training centre or other suitable venue.  Wherever this may be, the area, vehicles, instructor and the students must be entirely concerned with training and not involved or directed to other duties whilst training is in progress.

The vehicle used for training must be in a safe, in sound mechanical condition and suitable for the operation/applications to be covered.

A suitable area should be provided and marked accordingly, and access should be restricted solely to the instructor and students.

A classroom, or other suitable accommodation, must be made available along with visual aids, to facilitate the teaching and testing of the relevant job safety knowledge.  There should be no disturbance in this area by the normal working activities of the company.

A risk assessment must be available for the area and the activity to be carried out, these must be available to the students.  Where generic risk assessments are not available the instructor must complete appropriate risk assessments and make the results known to the students.

Content and Structure of Training

Training will be largely practical. Where training is mostly theoretical some practical training will be included in order to maintain the level of interest, allowing sufficient time for the trainee to acquire and develop the necessary skills and knowledge.

Training will follow carefully devised and prepared programmes, which ensure that each stage is presented in a logical sequence.  The instructor will demonstrate and explain each stage, and after ensuring that each trainee fully understands what he or she is required to do, will allow students to practice in turn until an acceptable degree of skill is acquired.  Sufficient time will be allowed for the students to practice, thus developing both their skill and confidence.  Students not involved in the practice session on the vehicle will be encouraged to observe and learn by observation.

It is essential that practice is closely and constantly supervised and all faults should be detected and rectified as soon as they occur, using the students powers of logical deduction.

Basic training should be solely concerned with one category of vehicle, and should the operator be required to operate additional categories then conversion training will be required.


Assessment is an integral tool for instructors to ensure that learning has taken place and that the objectives of the course have been achieved.

During training the instructor will continuously assess each trainee's progress to ensure that the required standards are being achieved.

Student knowledge will also be assessed through a multiple choice question paper supplied by IVR (UK).

Practical assessment will be carried out on pre-use vehicle and equipment inspection and a practical skills assessment on the use of the equipment and process of the techniques required to operate it.  All student feedback should be recorded where possible to assist with both audit and assessment processes.

IVR (UK) Limited documentation

Certification of Trained Operators

Upon successful completion of the training and/or assessment each operator will be issued with a certificate of achievement to the required standard.

Where assessment only has taken place the instructor must obtain evidence of prior learning and provide IVR (UK) (The Administrator) with copies of that evidence.

Certificates will contain the following information: -

  1. Name of trainee
  2. Name of trainee's employer
  3. Dates and duration of training given
  4. Type/s of training given (basic, skills/specific, job/conversion, refresher), or if assessment only was carried out
  5. Vehicle type and description
  6. Ancillaries included during training, where applicable
  7. Date of assessment
  8. Instructors and examiners name/s and signature/s and registered number

Registration on to the scheme

Where recovery companies are operating under NHSS 17 and have a contract with the Highways Agency, through the National Vehicle Recovery Manager, they will be required to register trained employees through the scheme administrator, IVR (UK).  Companies/individuals will pay a one off registration fee which will register them to the system and provide them with a skills card outlining the modules they have achieved.  The minimum achievement for a skills card to be issued will be the ‘Core Modules’. However, even companies not providing services the HA may wish to register their technicians and provide them with a skills card. 

Training Records

In addition to certification, employers are also required to keep records of training, which should contain full details including: -

  1. Company name and address
  2. Name of training organisation, where applicable
  3. Employee's full name
  4. Type/duration and dates of training and tests
  5. Instructor/examiner name/s and registered number
  6. Vehicle type/model/ancillaries

Note:  HSE inspectors or EHO inspectors may require an employer to produce certificates and training records.

Written Authorisation to Operate

Employers are required to issue written authorisation to operators of recovery vehicles, and no operator should be permitted to use a vehicle unsupervised unless such authorisation has been issued.

Written authorisation should only be issued to operators who have successfully completed all stages of training, and should only cover the specific vehicles on which training has been given.

The authorisation should identify the vehicle, special ancillaries, date of authorisation, and in addition to stating the operator’s name, it should also include the name and signature of the issuing person.