In early 2022 the Department of Transport (DfT) launched a consultation into the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (DCPC) regime, following a review undertaken in late 2021 on the driver shortage issues.

The DCPC is a qualification that new drivers of certain goods or passenger carrying vehicles must hold in addition to their driving licences.  It was introduced into UK domestic law as a result of EU legislation.  Drivers sitting their DCPC must undertake 4 test consisting of :

  • A 2-part theory test
  • Case studies
  • A practical driving test, and
  • A practical demonstration of vehicle operation.

Drivers who drive vehicles that are subject to the applicable regulations must then maintain their DCPC by completing 35 hours of periodic training every 5-years.

The changes proposed by the DfT did not affect how an initial DCPC is obtained, but how drivers who are maintaining their DCPC or regaining their DCPC, for instance for those drivers who previously held a qualification but allowed it to lapse, go about undertaking their periodic renewal.

The proposed changes aim to create two parallel qualifications for driving in Great Britain and Northern Ireland; a national DCPC (N-DCPC) which is the qualification that the DfT launched a consultation on, and an international DCPC (I-DCPC) which would remain compliant with the UK/EU Trade & Cooperation Agreement.

Making Qualification more Flexible:

Currently Regulations mean DCPC training modules have to be 7 hours long, or 3.5 hours if split, including when part of the module contains e-learning, both parts need to be completed across two consecutive days.  The proposed changes were aimed at enhancing flexibility for drivers and their employers.  Whilst the 35 hours of training will remain, the removal of the need to complete training across two consecutive days or to have a minimum duration for a training day is aimed to aid drivers when re-entering the industry.

Faster Route for Training Returning Drivers:

Under the proposals, returning drivers could be allowed to take the shorter periodic tests.  The DfT believes that making experienced drivers go through a full training and testing regime puts up barriers to their re-entry and creates a disproportionate burden on the testing regime.  With this change it is hoped to be able to react more quickly to issues such as the Covid-19 Pandemic when significant pressure on critical supply chains was experienced, exacerbated by a shortage of qualified HGV drivers within the UK.

Safety Levels Maintained?

At the time of the launch of the consolation, Logistics UK voiced concerns about issues these proposed changes might lead to.  They suggested that the periodic tests could undermine road safety if drivers do not get the full training required, due to the increased complexity around the different rules and levels of training.  The possible increase in costs of training was also highlighted; "logistics businesses have already faced a 12.6% rise in vehicle operating costs, are facing a reduction in energy support and are investing in decarbonisation technologies in line with the government targets... these businesses cannot continue to absorb yet more rising and unnecessary costs, which would ultimately have to be passed on to end users".

You can read the full consultation document from the Government by clicking here.

Next Steps Announced by Government:

The consultation closed at the end of April 2023.  In December 2023 the DfT published the initial findings to the consultation and announced what the next steps would be.  The DfT stated that the principle of reforming the DCPC was "widely supported" by industry stakeholders, specifically around a periodic testing option within the National DCPC in lieu of defined training.  E-learning also garnered significant support in the industry, allowing the DCPC training pathway to be streamlined for returning drivers.  However, the Road Haulage Association and the Confederation of Passenger Transport have vocally criticised the periodic testing proposal as being unsafe and unsuitable.

In summary, the Government has decided that DCPC will benefit from reforms to increase flexibility when renewing and regaining the qualification.  To implement this the Government is proposing:

  • To consult further on introducing a new periodic test as an alternative to 35 hours of training, for drivers looking to renew their DCPC - this would also be available to drivers looking to return to the sector and will form an accelerated return pathway for them;
  • To reform training by reducing the minimum course length from 7 hours down to 3.5 hours;
  • To "decouple" e-learning from trainer-led courses, and to;
  • Develop with the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) more core course content and encourage informal assessment at the end of modules.

The changes to the training reforms are scheduled to be brought into force with the use of secondary legislation, using powers within the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act and to bring forward this legislation to commence in summer 2024.  However this legislation is not going to include the introduction of the new periodic test.  The DfT is proposing a further period of consultation with industry stakeholders on that issue.

If you would like to read the full overview of responses and the Government's response then please click here.

If you would like to discuss any of these changes and how they might affect your transport operation, then do please get in touch by calling 01279 818280 or click here to send an email.  We are here to help.

(C) Richard Pelly January 2024


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