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Driver CPC – Brexit and Beyond – Here to Stay?

On June 23rd 2016, the voting populous of the United Kingdom was asked a question.  The question had two possible answers….and the rest, as they say, is history.

Except that what then followed was a myriad of further questions arising from the answer to the first – the majority of which remain unanswered – with the result that some 30 months after the Brexit referendum, many of us (including, according to the media and political commentators, those that lead us) are still none the wiser about what will actually happen on 29th March 2019.

This lack of clarity affects passenger vehicle operators as much as anyone.  Such is the concern about how Brexit will unfold for passenger transport operators, that in September 2018 the government published a guidance note entitled “Operating bus or coach services abroad if there’s no Brexit deal” – a document that seeks to reassure commercial passenger vehicle operators that ‘Plan B’ has not only been considered, but has already been set in motion so that the UK’s passenger transport industry is “ready from day one” in a no-deal scenario (to explore that document in detail would be an article in itself – but operators should definitely read it).

For very good reasons businesses need certainty in order to plan for the future, this is especially so in a heavily regulated sector, like transport.  Small comfort though it may be, it does at least appear that a concluded position has been reached for Driver CPC.  On 17th September 2018, the Vehicle Drivers (Certificates of Professional Competence) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018 – which amend the existing regulations dating from 2007 – were laid before parliament, and are designed to come into force “on exit day”.

So What Will Change Under the New Regulations?

The amending legislation re-writes very limited parts of the existing regulations so that any ambiguity as to their application is removed post-Brexit – but the overall intention is that the existing regime for Driver CPC will continue exactly as before.  This is not surprising since the rationale that professional PSV drivers should know about the rules that apply to their work (especially those rules designed to keep themselves, their passengers and other road users safe) has nothing to do with Brexit per se.

The original Driver CPC Regulations (like many of our laws) are derived from European Union Law.  In 2003, the European Union issued a Directive which required EU member states to put in place domestic legislation setting out the Driver CPC requirements in specified terms.  The UK’s answer was the 2007 Regulations, while the other EU member states put in place their own domestic versions in similar terms.

The amendments are technical, rather than practical.  The existing UK regulations refer to the overarching EU Directive, which itself applies to ‘member states’.  When the UK is no longer a member state, the new regulations simply amend the wording to ensure that the 2007 regulations will still apply.  By way of an example, a driver will no longer be issued with a Driver Qualification Card by a ‘member state’ (which is the current position), but specifically and expressly by the UK – though quite deliberately, the UK-issued Driver CPC will continue to mirror the EU-issued version, thus UK drivers will retain EU and EEA market access (subject to the terms of Brexit on a wider scale), and the UK-issued DCPC will also continue to be recognised as a Quality Charter system of training for the purposes of the ECMT quota system.

In summary the changes are designed to ensure that the existing regime can be continued post-Brexit.

Time to Refresh!

The Driver CPC regime was designed “…to improve road safety and the safety of the driver, including during operations carried out by the driver while the vehicle is stopped…

The Driver CPC concept has its supporters and detractors.  From vocal critics one often hears of the way in which the regime has been abused, with operators and their drivers being driven by cost and convenience, including drivers repeatedly attending the same DCPC qualifying course just to get their hours up to the required number.  There is also the issue of operators paying for drivers to do their DCPC training, only then to lose the driver to a competitor and so being out of pocket and having contributed to training the competition.  Then one hears tell of courses that never take place and drivers who pay the fee and ‘collect’ the hours but who never actually turn up for the training, and who are happy to pay so that they do not have to go!

Knowing that the goalposts are not going to move will have its advantages: there will be no complex new system to get used to, no teething problems, no need for operators to reinvent the wheel by introducing another compliance and monitoring system (of course there should already be one to ensure that training is kept up to date, kept relevant and refreshed at appropriate intervals, and that DQC expiry dates are recorded and monitored).  ‘No change’ should help operators and their drivers to focus on trying to ensure that they get the very best out of what is on offer.

Operators and drivers will know the basic requirements of the Driver CPC regime, including that:

  1. Subject to exemptions, Driver CPC is required to drive any vehicle for which a category D or D+E vocational entitlement is required;
  2. In addition to an initial CPC test, drivers are required to undertake 35 hours of driver CPC refresher training within each 5-year period starting from the expiry date of the last issued DCPC (and not the date of the last refresher training course)
  3. Drivers must carry evidence with them that they hold a Driver CPC (most commonly their DQC) when driving a relevant vehicle – failure to do so is an offence and can attract a fixed penalty notice.

What the law stops short of doing is being prescriptive in terms of the subject matter to be covered by periodic training courses (though training course providers are required to be approved).  That said, for those who are organised, this type of training should always be a ‘buyers market’ with operators and their drivers being in a position to choose training that is relevant to them and which offers at least a realistic chance of being worthwhile.

Having a system in place to keep copies of training attendance certificates, and to monitor the training that each driver has received, the dates when the training was provided, details of what the course content included, in addition to obtaining some feedback on the quality of the course materials and those who delivered the course, as well as the price and the times and locations when similar courses are available in the future, is not rocket science.

Used properly, Driver CPC has always been – and will remain – a valuable training tool; but operators and their drivers should avoid the pitfalls of attending irrelevant or poor quality course just because they are cheap and conveniently located.

© Richard P. Pelly.  January 2019.  Article first appeared in Croner-I