If you’re looking at undertaking a Level 2/3 Assessment in the near future, then don’t go anywhere. In this blog post Parallaxx Assessor Ben Isdale shares some invaluable knowledge, what to do and most importantly what not to do, to pass with flying colours. 

Ben is a Level 2/3 STMS with extensive on-road experience. Before becoming an Assessor he trained and coached well over 50 STMSs through their assessment and has a thorough understanding of the process.  What a massive two weeks it’s been! November has been a busy month in the Level 2/3 space. During this time, I have been privileged to assess ten STMSs of varying capabilities and experience. As an Assessor it’s my job to be a ‘gate keeper’ for the industry – a job I don’t take lightly. An Assessors role is to ensure that only competent STMSs who genuinely understand how to operate safely on the network are allowed to do so.  

I assess many experienced STMSs who have a level of competence, ability and knowledge that is so far above the assessment requirement, it is simply a tick box exercise every 3 years. Then on the other side, there are others who aren’t as exposed to daily high speed lane closures – in this case the assessment can be a daunting experience. At times it can be tough, giving people the news that they can no longer operate on the network and that they are ‘not yet competent’ or NYC.  

I’d like to share some dos and don’ts to help those of you wanting to prepare and undertake a Level 2/3 Assessment. 

The Golden Rules: 

1. Pre-assessment meeting. 

The pre-assessment meeting is an extremely important part of the assessment process. Before every assessment I meet with every STMS to go through the assessment workbook, the assessment criteria, the worksite methodology and check the verifications, TMP check and assessment questions. This is a time to break the ice with the candidate and ensure that there are no surprises on the day or night of the assessment. Without a pre-assessment meeting, the candidate is walking into the unknown and regardless of experience, will often return a poor result. The pre-assessment meeting is a mandatory part of the assessment with the exception of organisations who have a dedicated trainer who understands the process with a track record I trust to prepare candidates. The only loss here is the chance to break the ice with the STMS and build rapport before the assessment. This is a cost saving function I afford to very few organisations.  

2.The toolbox or pre-start. 

This is often the make or break. This is where I get an idea of the STMS’ understanding of mobile operations and ability to install a closure safely. I find that if the STMS can’t explain the setup methodology clearly then this directly links to their performance out on site.  

If I don’t get the feeling that the STMS knows what they are talking about and are going off a script someone else wrote, their on-site delivery will also be poor – especially if something goes wrong. They won’t know how to apply the principles of CoPTTM to fix a mistake or unforeseen problem safely. PREPARE. I tell all my candidates that they need to practice their toolbox out loud at least two times before the assessment. This way, the words will flow and they will be prepared. Importantly, don’t copy someone else’s toolbox. Make it your own. 


3. The on-road assessment. 

The on-road assessment begins with a check of the TMP. Often, I will provide a pre-approved TMP to make the process simpler instead of the organisation developing one. This speeds up the lead in time and reduces the back and forth between myself and the organisation and ensures the TMP is fit for purpose. The STMS must check the TMP and identify any faults or concerns.  


4. Vehicle and equipment checks. 

All vehicles MUST be compliant. Failure to provide compliant vehicles will result in the assessment not going ahead – no exceptions. The amount of times I’ve turned up to site and one or two of the vehicles have been missing some critical items or are not working properly would surprise you. These mistakes can be extremely costly to an organisation when you factor in my time, the crew hourly rate and preparation on the day. Imagine paying for a crew for 4 hours only to find out the assessment is cancelled because the LAS has a downward facing arrow. All equipment must be in serviceable condition. If one sign is not loaded, this results in an instant NYC on site. 


5. On-site communication. 

The STMS will install the worksite, invite me into the working space, give me a visitor briefing and then remove the worksite. The STMS must be in control of all aspects of the assessment. It doesn’t matter if the STMS is driving the work vehicle, a deck hand or sitting in the shadow vehicle as a passenger. What I am looking for is the candidate having complete control of all aspects of the operation. 

I often get experienced STMSs who are driving the worksite out for the candidate sitting in the shadow vehicle who can’t help but make suggestions or try and help the candidate. This is a huge no-no. All decision making must be made by the candidate, I cannot stress this enough. I am not assessing the STMS’ ability to drive out a worksite, I am assessing their knowledge, understanding and ability to apply that to mobile operations, lead a team and ensure the worksite is installed and removed safely. The STMS could be walking down the footpath, so long as they are in control of the operation 

Communication is over radios. The candidate is required to call all movements over the radio and the assessment crew needs to be assertive and proactively communicate back to the STMS. One thing I say is “I should be able to sit in my office and know exactly what is happening by listening to the radio”. This enables me to really get a good understanding of the decision making and thought process of the candidate and helps me make my decision on whether the candidate is competent and understands the principles. 


6. The on-site visitor briefing. 

Once the STMS has installed the worksite, completed a site check, on-site record, and other paperwork, I will then be invited into the working space. At this stage I will have driven through the worksite multiple times, taken a video and counted all sign spacings. I will also have noted down some discussion points and questions to ask the STMS. 

The STMS will then give me a visitor briefing induction when I arrive on-site, covering their role and responsibilities, the no-go areas and other information I need to know to be on site. This is often an extremely weak part of the assessment – it is glaringly obvious when an STMS doesn’t complete daily briefings on-site in their normal day-to-day work. 

Following the briefing, I will ask the STMS how they think the setup went and what they think of their worksite. What I’m looking for here is an STMS who is able to identify their own mistakes or issues with the worksite. A huge red flag is if I have identified critical or obvious mistakes and the STMS says “my site is great there are no issues”. This says to me that their site check hasn’t been completed properly or the STMS isn’t aware of their shortfalls.  

I will then bring up the mistakes or areas I am concerned about and have a discussion with the STMS to gauge if they understand them or not.  

If the errors are over the assessment marking guide threshold or, I genuinely believe the STMS has no idea what they are doing, I will call the assessment NYC and direct the backup STMS to take charge of the worksite.  

If the STMS is clearly just extremely nervous, I will explain to them that they need to really really show me what they’ve got during the removal of the worksite.  


7. The worksite removal. 

Following the on-site briefing and if I am happy with the way the assessment has gone so far, I will instruct the STMS to remove the worksite. The STMS will brief the crew on the removal methodology now, if they haven’t already done so in the pre-start toolbox. As I said earlier, if I am not confident in their knowledge and ability, this is the last chance to prove to me they know what they are doing. If I see that the STMS has had an adrenaline dump, I generally say “Take a 5 minute breather, collect yourself, you’re on the home stretch. Sit back, think, relax and then go”.  

The STMS will start the removal process and once the site has been removed and a final site check has been completed, we will meet at the assembly point for a debrief and the assessment result. I will cover key areas of the assessment and we debrief as a group on what went well, what went not so well and what can be improved next time.  

Generally, if the STMS makes it to the finish line, the assessment will be a pass. If critical errors are made that deem the candidate NYC, I will have already called the assessment off.  


8. Post assessment. 

At this point, the candidate will complete the on-site record and other company paperwork to send through to me for filing. All verifications, questions and TMP paperwork will be scanned through for filing as well. I need to receive this paperwork before I process the assessment and send it to NZTA.  

NOTE: If I don’t get this paperwork the assessment will not be processed and the STMS will not receive their warrant.  

Once the paperwork is received I will complete the assessment workbook, send a confirmation letter and certificate to the organisation and send the registration form and photo to NZTA.  

In conclusion

Level 2/3 assessments are not easy – it doesn’t matter how experienced you are – if you’re not prepared, don’t understand the principles of CoPTTM for mobile operations and/or you don’t take it seriously, you won’t pass. Simple as that.  

Organisational support is an absolute must – don’t throw your STMS in the deep end and expect them to just sort it themselves. Often the difference between an STMS passing and not, is the support they receive from the management team. This is a big deal and I often feel sorry for some really good people who have been left to organise everything themselves with little to no managerial support. It really shows.  

Keep it real – operate as you normally would, be yourself. You don’t need to quote the TCD rule sign codes, if you call TSLs “speeds”, call them “speeds”, so long as your crew understand what you are saying, that is ok.