Minor Repairs Electric Vehicle – Initial CWU Advice to Members
Branches will recall that the Minor Repairs Agreement involving Operational Driver Grades was reached in 2013 and following a lengthy pilot period was finally rolled out nationally in March of 2014, full details of which can be viewed in the Minor Repair Agreement set out in LTB (Letter To Branches) 088/13 and 171/14 respectively.
In 2017, Royal Mail took its first major steps in terms of moving over to Electric Vehicles (EVs) with the introduction of 100 LE2 Peugeot Partner vans within Deliveries and since then it has continued to increase the overall number of EVs within use across the operation. As this is due to continue, the RM Fleet will be aiming to replace all petrol and diesel engine road vehicles on a key-for-key basis.
Whilst the CWU fully supports this wider move to EVs, the arrival of these new vehicles has nonetheless brought with it a major concern around any ‘maintenance’ work completed, given the high voltage regulations that surround these vehicles.
Indeed, and taking into consideration this matter, all Fleet Technicians are required to attain the relevant accreditation of IMI Level 3 (Institute of Motor Industry) which tests the competence of individuals working in the retail automotive industry who are committed to an ethical code of conduct. Equally, all non-technical members in RM Fleet including Admin grades are also required to attain the lower level of accreditation to IMI Level 1, which is ‘qualification designed’ for people who may encounter high voltage vehicles and who require an awareness of any related hazards.
The main reason for this, is that with a traditional Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) fuel is held in a tank and pumped to the engine through a single line. EVs however can have one or multiple battery packs located around the vehicle and either a single drive motor or one for each wheel meaning high voltage cables running all over the vehicle. For clarity and in layperson terms, this is an increase from 12v in a petrol or diesel vehicle to 650v – which is potentially life threatening.
RM Fleet has made it clear to the CWU that no one person should work on an EVs unless suitably trained and that no one person should work in isolation. It has been verified to the CWU that it is a very important matter of individual safety. One example of the dangers as included in the Minor Repairs Agreement is the changing of road wheels. The road wheel on a conventional EV will feature a design where the gasoline engine is substituted with an electric motor, which in itself can generate power when turned or ‘spun’ by the repairer when the vehicle is elevated on a trolley jack.
Given this, the CWU is now seeking wider confirmation from Royal Mail in terms of EVs and Minor Repairs, but in light of a recent RM Communication issued by the Fleet Director to refocus attention on Minor Repairs, it is now necessary for the union to offer initial advice to all OPG or Drivers that they should not be expected to undertake any Minor Repairs on Electric Vehicles.
To be clear, our view is that no Minor Repair should be undertaken by OPGs or Drivers until such time as both the Outdoor Department and the Health, Safety & Environmental Departments have been provided with the opportunity to assess the dangers involved in this operation. Members are therefore advised to refrain from carrying out such minor repairs on all EVs until further notice.
In setting out this advice, it is necessary to also draw to the attention of Branches, Representatives and members alike, that the Minor Repair agreement stipulates that Drivers must not undertake minor repairs until they have been fully trained and once trained, only the repairs documented within the Minor Repairs Manual should be undertaken using the tools authorised and provided by RM Fleet. Even after training, however, the agreement makes it clear that the OPG will make the final decision on whether to tackle a minor repair or not. This principle is repeated in the Joint Statement on Deployment of Minor Repairs issued in 2013, issued alongside deployment.
Whilst further updates will be issued in due course, if you have any queries to the content of the above, please contact the Outdoor Department reference 300, email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
CWU Assistant Secretary