Worries that drivers and employers think that the Brexit vote will mean an immediate end to the EU-backed training initiative are exacerbated by a belief by some drivers who acquired their vocational licence by examination after the Driver CPC’s inception that they only need to commence their first cycle of periodic training ‘when the card runs out’.
In fact, government has confirmed it has no plans to repeal the Driver CPC legislation, and the periodic training process is continuous and must be undertaken during the five-year validity period which starts when each Driver CPC card is issued.
Derek Broomfield, chairman of Essex training provider Novadata said: “We are definitely experiencing fewer people doing training during this second cycle, which ends in September 2019.
“Many people think they can run their card to the end and then start training… but they are all going to want training at the same time, while some think that Brexit will see it kicked into the long grass… It won’t be.
“In fact, if Driver CPC is reformed post-Brexit, then there is more likely to be an end to the policy of making the training attendance-only: there may be basic testing to ensure the training had been comprehended. At the moment, we have candidates who can speak very little English being ‘trained’, but there’s nothing we can do about it.
“We’ve also noticed that JAUPT (the Driver CPC training standards body) is getting very hot on renewing courses: they are even asking for mid-term changes to courses that are running. JAUPT is now demanding a ‘close association’ of training content with the published topics in the Driver CPC training syllabus.
“These factors, combined with the current shortage of training candidates, means that capacity is being lost as trainers go out of business. If demand picks up abruptly in 2019, there won’t be capacity to meet it.”
These views are generally supported by other trainers contacted by Transport Operator.
Paul Keyworth, managing director of trainer and recruiter HGV Work Ltd said: “Enlightened businesses have been doing one a year; others are leaving it until the last minute.
“There will be a rush,” he predicted.
Mike Ray, director at Hampshire’s Ace Trainers, said not all small businesses were hoping Driver CPC would go away: “I can confirm most small business with longer-term staff are setting up one course per year.”
Chris Staples, training and compliance manager at Top Gear Skillsforce, said he feared a re-run of 2014, when drivers left it until the last minute.
He urged employers to take responsibility for training their drivers, and to choose courses that highlighted areas where their company’s compliance was weak – giving Working Time Directive regulations as an example.
He argued that the UK should follow the Republic of Ireland and ensure that all drivers did one training session every 12 months.
The driver shortage might also be slowing uptake of training, he argued, saying that some drivers: “are working long hours and simply don’t have the time to do it.
“Training sessions are slow at the moment, all round the country according to consortiums that I have spoken to,” he concluded.
Peter Jackson, owner of econoDrive, said: “Only the big companies seem to recognise DCPC is here to stay.”
Paul Wicks trains Staplehurst Transits’ drivers. He told Transport Operator: “I am currently in a programme of doing regular courses for all of my core fleet drivers so that they are up-to-date before their old card expires.
“I also deliver to non-employees and I am getting quite a lot of repeat business so that drivers are again up-to-date before expiry.
“I did highlight the benefits of one course a year in the last round of training, and with a lot of people it seems to have sunk in.
“There are, however, still the diehards that are saying, “it will all go away when we leave the EU”. My counter-argument to that is, before we exit your old card will have expired and you will have to do 35 hours in a hurry, again!”
John Marshall, training manager at Seven Asset Management, thought the situation might not be as bad as some feared.
“We are getting a constant stream of work from existing clients, and regular enquiries from potential new ones. The initial ‘Brexit’ driver response had to be managed. For Seven Asset, it’s business as usual… If anything, I’d say we’ve seen an increase.”
Andy Wood, operations director at Viamaster Training, said: “Our experience is mixed. We’ve continued to run full weeks of DCPC since 2014; initially these were catch-up drivers who had missed or ignored the September 2014 deadline.
“Then informed drivers started booking their second round to gain accreditation until 2024 and some companies made plans post-September 2014 and are putting drivers through one module per year.
“Recently we’ve been in discussions with existing and new customers, some of whom are only just waking up to the fact that September 2019 is in reality now just two years away. I’ve been surprised by enquiries from larger operators in last few months who still have several modules to complete.
“The expectation is we are going to be busy in 2018-19. A personal view is that some self-employed DCPC trainers have moved on to other things since September 2014.”
Stephen Holland, training manager at Recruitment Driven Training, and Allan McNaught, who manages Tyneside Training Services, agree that there will be a “mad rush” as the next deadline approaches.
McNaught added: “I’m still amazed at the number of drivers who are working but still haven’t got their first DCPC Card, and there are firms who are taking a ‘wait and see’ approach to their DCPC training until the dust settles post-election and Brexit negotiations, in the hope it will all disappear.
“But I’m encouraged that there are firms who are taking a proactive approach to training and hopefully more will follow suit.”
Employers who still have a policy of leaving DCPC training to their drivers to organise individually should reflect on the attitude of the traffic commissioners to this approach.
If drivers from a company are called up to conduct hearings where deficiencies in training are exposed – where tachograph offences have been committed through a lack of understanding of the regulations, for example – then the next step is to summon the operator to a public inquiry where they will have to explain and justify their training policy.
It’s possible for the operator’s licence to be suspended until all the drivers have been put through the appropriate courses.