Freight Transport Association talks Driver CPC

Driver CPC needs to be improved, but we should be careful what we wish for in changes arising from the Driver Training Directive, according to the Freight Transport Association (FTA). Adding additional constraints could prevent responsible, professional vehicle operators from training drivers in the knowledge and skills they need to do their job effectively, claims the FTA. The comments came in the Association’s response to the Driving Standards Agency’s consultation on the Driver Training Directive as it prepares to submit its own thoughts on the regime on the behalf of the UK government.
FTA’s Head of Road Freight and Enforcement Policy, James Firth, said, ‘Driver CPC was brought in to raise standards across the industry, but many responsible vehicle operators were already developing their drivers’ knowledge and skills before the European Directive came along. When it came into force these operators had to make their existing high quality training conform to the administrative requirements of Brussels. The UK government was right to implement a flexible interpretation of the requirements when Driver CPC started back in 2008, but it means that any changes to the Directive which the Commission may be planning will have a direct impact on training courses on the ground.’
FTA also warned against allowing Brussels to dictate exactly what a driver should be trained in. Firth said, ‘The problem with one-size-fits-all is it usually becomes one-size-fits nobody very well. If the specific training content is defined by politicians – either in Brussels or Westminster – we run the risk of every driver investing time and money on redundant training. For instance a driver in the retail sector should not be forcibly required to be trained in loading and securing aggregates. There is certainly a challenge still in engaging drivers fully with DCPC, but insisting upon irrelevant training is a sure-fire way to alienate them further.’

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Missed the deadline?

By the time you read this, the deadline by which drivers of coaches and buses with ‘acquired rights’ must have completed their first block of Driver CPC periodic training has passed. Existing bus or coach drivers who got their vocational licence before 10 September 2008 were awarded these rights, which means they do not have to take the initial qualification but had five years in which to complete their first block of 35 hours periodic training. VOSA officers are now routinely checking whether ‘acquired rights’ bus and coach drivers have completed their training and have a Driver Qualification Card (DQC) or are driving illegally. The latest statistics (up to the end of August) show that 241,930 drivers have now completed 35 hours periodic training and been issued with a DQC. They also show that 661,820 have started doing periodic training. In total it is estimated that 500,000 to 750,000 bus, coach and lorry drivers require Driver CPC.

DSA and VOSA Chief Executive, Alastair Peoples, said, ‘I’d like to thank the bus, coach and haulage industry for their support so far; that includes the drivers and operators who’ve committed to the training and the wider industry who’ve been invaluable in helping to introduce Driver CPC. I hope the LGV industry will now continue this commitment over the coming months as we work towards their deadline next September. Driver CPC makes a valuable contribution to road safety as well as making savings for the industry. VOSA officers will be checking Driver CPC status and not being aware of Driver CPC is no excuse.’

‘Get qualified and don’t risk your livelihood’

‘Acquired rights’ drivers of coaches and buses have less than a month to make sure they have completed their training requirements or risk being fined and even losing their livelihood, DSA and VOSA warn. The Office of the Traffic Commissioner has also reiterated the need for operators to be aware of their drivers’ training hours and deadlines to avoid penalties. To remain within the rules, all drivers must do 35 hours of periodic training every five years. The first deadline to do this is 10 September 2013.

Lead Traffic Commissioner on Driver CPC, Joan Aitken, said, ‘The bus and coach industry is now entering the most critical phase of this training, with only one month to go before the deadline expires. Drivers who have completed the required hours and worked hard to achieve the DQC can continue to provide vital services for the public after 9 September. But those who have yet to finish the training, and drivers who have not recorded any hours, must make sure they are qualified by the deadline if they want to carry on working in the industry. Traffic commissioners have made it clear that drivers and operators will be brought to their attention when there are offences of driving without a DQC or failing to produce it. This could result in driver and O licence sanctions. Our message is simple: get qualified and don’t risk your livelihood.’

Driver CPC exemptions made

Following feedback from the industry, the government has announced two exceptions from the Driver CPC requirements affecting around 76,000 licence holders who drive PCVs or HGVs for the purpose of repairing or delivering them. To be implemented in the Autumn, the move is expected to save UK businesses £29m and covers most of the issues raised by the industry although the 50km rule could provide a challenge.

The first exemption benefits both mechanics and valets delivering vehicles. It applies as long as no goods or passengers are being carried, the vehicle is not being used for hire or reward, driving heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) or public service vehicles (PSVs) is not the driver’s main job and the vehicle remains within 50km of the driver’s base. The second exemption benefits mechanics, covering the vehicle being driven to an official test at a VOSA or authorised testing facility and appears to revoke the guidance previously given by VOSA.

In addition, the government will be re-issuing guidance to clarify the situation for drivers with grandfather rights minibus entitlements, to enable them to progress straight to the periodic training element of Driver CPC. So where their driving role requires CPC, D1 (NFHR) and D (NFHR) licence entitlement holders will now be able to progress straight to the CPC periodic training requirement of 35 hours training per five years, rather than needing to take the initial licence acquisition and CPC test as well.

Roads Minister, Stephen Hammond, said, ‘Driver training is essential to ensure that lorry and bus drivers keep their skills up to scratch and keep our roads safe. But making the training compulsory for those who only drive HGVs over short distances, because they are delivering them for repair or testing, is costly and time-consuming. That is why we are making these exemptions which will reduce costs and administration for businesses.’

Driver CPC exemptions consultation

A consultation has been launched by the DSA concerning two proposals to widen the scope of Driver CPC exemptions. The first one would exempt vehicles attending a VOSA test centre, including VOSA authorised testing facilities (ATF). The second would exempt drivers of a vehicle that is being driven with the permission of the vehicle operator or lessor and where the following four extra conditions are met: within 50km of the driver’s base, no passengers are carried, the vehicle is not being used for hire or reward and driving such vehicles is not the driver’s main activity. Responses to the consultation must be made by 28 June 2013. Visit http://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/driver-cpc-changes-to-the-scope-of-exemptions for the response form.