Time to unite for a safer UK mixer industry

Mark Cowan, former director of transport and concrete at the British Aggregates Association (BAA) and creator of MixerSURE training, has called for UK mixer manufacturers and their supplier network to form an association like ALLMI (The Association of Lorry Loader Manufacturers and Importers). 
Concrete Plants, Equipment & Applications / March 8, 2024
By Guy Woodford
Mark Cowan is the creator of MixerSURE training. Pic: Mark Cowan

Founded in 1978 at the request of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), ALLMI is the UK trade association exclusively for lorry loaders. It promotes the safe use of the equipment, is involved in formulating legislation, and promotes training embodied in current legislation.


ALLMI was awarded the HSE's 'Working in Partnership' logo and a commendation statement due to its high training standards.


"It has become apparent that the formation of ALLMI and the request from the HSE illustrate the similarities in our sector and the need for them to be adopted," said Cowan. "This is due to the many yearly mixer rollovers and other notable incidents. To ensure that the mixers are used safely, guidance, best practices, and safe usage must be provided; manufacturers and suppliers can lead with this. Manufacturers provide the necessary information to operate the mixer safely through their operating manual. However, operating companies need to pay more attention to safety information, and we must ensure that everyone understands the significance of these legally required operating instructions".

The DVSA recognises MixerSURE training under its Endorsed Recognised Scheme. Pic: MixerSURE-Mark Cowan


In August 2023, in a letter to Cowan from North West Durham MP Richard Holden, who served as the Minister for Roads at the time, the Department of Transport (DfT) expressed concern over the high number of mixer rollovers (approximately 18 between Jan and Aug 23) in the UK. 


The ministerial letter also included references to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency's (DVSA) Earned Recognition (ER) module (Concrete Operational Standards), which covers sector-specific knowledge and training for the mixer sector. Sections cover additional maintenance checks for the ancillary equipment attached to the vehicle body, mixer, and elements such as rollover prevention. The letter further references the MixerSURE training recognised by the DVSA under its Endorsed Recognised Scheme.  


"The work we did in partnership with the DVSA's Phil Breen and the ER team was a critically important step in understanding further what was needed across our high-risk sector, and through the BAA, we were able to provide a benchmark of standards in fitting with the ER scheme to demonstrate compliance," said Cowan "The module was developed using the mixer manufacturers' operating manuals, British and European Standards, Road Transport & H&S legislation, and the Institute of Road Transport Engineers (IRTE) rollover guidance.


"Returning to ALLMI and the HSE, we provided the first step in improving industry safety standards for mixers and ready-mix supply chains through the DVSA.


"We provided the guidance operators needed to be compliant, which was not just an achievable standard but a legal requirement".


Having brought the manufacturers together to consider developing a National Occupational Standard (NOS) for mixer drivers, Cowan noted that the plan was always to continue the group, with the manufacturers leading it and providing Extra Support and Guidance.


He continued: "If you look at the press releases when we formed the BAA NOS working group, that was always the bigger plan It needed the direction of the manufacturers, which was paramount in improving road safety and from a corporate social responsibility aspect. With a NOS no longer needed, there's still that overriding need to provide information guidance and promote the safe use of the mixer.

Mark Cowan
Mark Cowan speaking at a British Aggregates Association annual conference. Pic: BAA-Mark Cowan


"Having sent out an invitation only a few days ago, we've already received letters of support from three manufacturers and two suppliers, so there's an appetite to continue what we started two years ago. Facilitating the group will allow each manufacturer or supplier to provide input initially and develop the core aims and objectives to improve road safety."


Lindsey Rudd, group sales director of TVS Interfleet and chair of the BAA NOS Group, also stressed why this new group is needed.


"Having worked with and supported Mark over the years to make our sector better, safer, and more accountable, the Mixer Manufacturers & Suppliers Association (MMSA) can provide the platform to ensure we can do all this by becoming more responsible.


"Regardless of the manufacturer's or suppliers' size, providing a collective voice recognised by the regulators and helping shape future legislation is the sensible solution. While we may be competitors, the ultimate goal is to provide our customers with the support they need to operate and maintain our equipment safely.


"As responsible manufacturers and suppliers, we provide our operating instruction manuals and, through Mark's offer of developing free standardised training that can be delivered from source, recognised and accredited by the DVSA, bring everything together to assist and promote our collective good work."


Having responses from leading UK and European manufacturers and suppliers is an encouraging start. The first meeting, which is planned for April, will focus on formulating a strategy for the group.


"Now that we've got firm interest, the first step is to look at what we want to achieve, how we achieve it, and with whom," said Cowan. "From a regulatory side, the connections and relationships built with DVSA, DfT, National Highways, CLOCS, RHA, and many others can help us in a way that would enormously benefit our sector.


"While we may not be at the point where the DVSA or HSE are requesting the formation of an association, it will be close if we continue to let these incidents continue without being proactive.


"While the Minister of Roads comments from the DfT are encouraging, we should remember the ten rollovers in 2023 since the letter was drafted. Collaboration is the key, and while some may want to avoid getting involved, we still have a collective responsibility to make our industry safer for everyone."


If you'd like to know more about the MMSA, contact Mark Cowan at [email protected]

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