Professional drivers’ qualifications

From September, all professional goods vehicle drivers will be required to hold a Driver’s Certificate of Professional Competence. Nic Allen, general manager of Training for the Freight Transport Association, explains what this will mean for drivers and employers and how it could spell good news for an industry facing up to a potential shortfall of employees

No doubt about it, the logistics sector has been hit hard by the recession – claims for Jobseekers’ Allowance among Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) drivers rose by an eye-watering 317 per cent from June 2008 to June 2009. However, when this economic downturn eventually becomes a recovery, another problem will rear its head: a skills shortage.
If ever there was an occupation needing an injection of new blood, lorry driving would be right at the top of the list. According to data from the Office of National Statistics, of the 309,100 HGV drivers in the UK in 2008, only two per cent were under 25 years old and 53 per cent of lorry drivers are 45 years of age or over. Clearly, when the majority of the current workforce retires a significant gap in skilled employees will be left.
Aside from the fact that, without truck drivers, the UK’s supply chain would simply shudder to a halt and our supermarket shelves would go empty, it would be a real missed opportunity if school, college and university leavers, of either gender, failed to recognise an industry which offers a competitive salary, career progression (top drivers often become transport managers) and, soon, with the DCPC, a well-deserved professional image.

What is Driver CPC?

HGV drivers are not usually given due credit for the often difficult job they do or the important role they play in keeping UK p.l.c. ticking over. The Driver CPC will hopefully change public perception by introducing compulsory training for vocational drivers, covering such subjects as fuel consumption, loading, drivers’ hours, customer care, defensive driving and operator licence rules. Technically speaking, Driver CPC is a Level 2 operational qualification and from 10 September this year, lorry drivers will join bus and coach drivers, who have been subject to the Driver CPC since September 2008 and fall under the scope of the new qualification.
To maintain one’s Driver CPC, all category C and D licence holders (including C1 and D1) will be required to undertake 35 hours of periodic training every five years. New drivers entering the industry must complete an Initial Qualification in order to drive professionally. Drivers already holding a vocational licence before the September dates will not be required to gain this Initial Qualification but will need to complete 35 hours of periodic training by 10 September 2014 for Goods Vehicles (or 10 September 2013 for Passenger-Carrying Vehicle licences). After this point periodic training will have to be repeated every five years. New drivers will also be required to complete 35 hours of periodic training within five years of the date of qualification and each subsequent five year period.
The 35 hours training required for qualification must be delivered in a minimum of seven-hour chunks within a 24-hour period, the results of which will be recorded and held on the Driving Standards Agency database.

What is being introduced

The European Parliament and Council have brought it in for two primary reasons: to improve road safety by bringing drivers up-to-date with the ever-changing regulations and requirements, and to develop the concept of professionalism, in its broadest sense, to an industry that seems to be habitually undervalued. It is aimed not only at improving the knowledge and skills of drivers when they first start work, but also ensuring those skills are maintained and developed throughout the driver’s working life.
Better-qualified drivers mean lower road casualty rates and nurturing safety is the overriding purpose behind these new qualifications. The Directive states: “the obligation to hold an initial qualification and to undergo periodic training is intended to improve road safety and the safety of the driver…”. For this reason alone the Driver CPC is a good idea. But it should also attract more people and, more importantly, the right kind of people to the industry by promoting a more professional and positive image, in turn attracting more people to drive buses, coaches and lorries for a living.
The Driver CPC can be used to improve vehicle condition with training provided on vehicle checks, defect reporting and operator licence awareness. Similarly, drivers’ hours and tachograph training is available via the Driver CPC and will also be useful for companies wanting to reinforce their working time practices.
FTA has found that daily defect checks (also known as driver walk round checks) and reporting are of most concern to managers of drivers. This is a thorny subject with some drivers’ firmly-held but incorrect belief that there is no legal requirement for them to do a check. FTA engineers have found that over 60 per cent of the defects found in their inspections should have been found by the driver and rectified before the vehicle was used: Vehicle & Operator Services Agency (VOSA) has found similar results. In this respect, the Driver CPC will provide a useful opportunity for drivers to undergo practical training to increase these skills.
As well as offering companies the opportunity to address poor performance, to keep abreast of new legislation and to reduce insurance premiums, the qualification will be a handy tool for refreshing a company’s health and safety objectives, too.

Don´t panic much
By now, companies should have a plan in place to ensure the introduction of the new requirements is as smooth as possible. If it hasn’t already been done then, as a matter of urgency, transport operators should:

  • Formulate a policy on who arranges and pays for training (as with driver licensing, the rules do not stipulate who should foot the bill for the training)
  • Identify what the training should achieve and how its effectiveness will be measured
  • Plan for the delivery of periodic training
  • Consider costs and budget
  • Introduce or amend management systems to ensure compliance

The plan should also monitor which employees already have the qualification through initial training and how much periodic training has been completed by other drivers.

Employers must have prepared and budgeted for the introduction of the Driver CPC. There will be no state funding available for Driver CPC training and, strictly speaking, the National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) driving qualification is not the same training process as Driver CPC. However, training undertaken to achieve an NVQ could double-up as Driver CPC periodic training, provided that the course:

1. can be linked to the syllabus
2. meets the criteria to be approved by Joint Approval Unit for Periodic Training (JAUPT)
3. is delivered by an approved centre.

In some cases it is possible to obtain funding for NVQs – your training provider should be able to advise you about this – but it should be remembered that an NVQ is a very different type of qualification to the Driver CPC. Gaining an NVQ requires the candidate to meet a certain standard and can take up time in preparation and assessment. This commitment should be understood fully before a driver embarks on this type of qualification.
Putting the funding issue to one side, the key element to a successful Driver CPC learning experience and to achieving a reasonable return on investment is in the quality of training. Credible industry-led training which is tailored to the needs of the company in question and provided by transportation compliance is fundamental. However, a simple certificate of attendance is not enough to ensure that trainees have digested all they have learnt. Instead, a technical assessment at the end of each module, as found in FTA’s Driver CPC Plus training, is highly-recommended to ensure compliance and improve performance.
The important thing to remember in all of this is that you are not alone. Even attending a one-day seminar, such as the ever-popular Transport Manager, can give you a really good insight into what’s required, as well as the opportunity to share ideas with your peers. The new season begins in September and bookings are being taken on 08717 11 22 22 or online at

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