Green light for domestic Driver CPC reforms

By Categories: NewsPublished On: Wednesday 13 December 2023

The Department for Transport (DfT) has published the outcome of its consultation into proposed Driver CPC reforms in Great Britain, and details of its plans for the next steps.

Driver CPC (DCPC) for domestic-only drivers will be reformed as a result of the consultation, government has decided, which will lead to the creation of two parallel systems – a new national qualification (N-DCPC), which will enable a more flexible approach for those driving only in the UK, and an international one (I-DCPC) which will continue to comply with existing terms agreed with the European Union.

Both will allow drivers to operate within Great Britain, as well as Northern Ireland (subject to the agreement of the devolved authorities in the province) but only the I-DCPC – which will maintain the current requirements for the qualification – will permit journeys to, from or within the EU.

“It is recognised that some concerns were raised over the introduction of parallel systems, for example in terms of creating confusion, but this is a necessary product of introducing reform and it is our view that delivery of these reforms justifies this,” said DfT.

“The department will work closely with the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to ensure these are implemented and communicated in clear and manageable ways.”

While acknowledging “a range of views”, DfT said that the principle of reforming the DCPC system was strongly supported.

“Furthermore, most respondents agreed with proposals for reforms to periodic training, e-learning, returning drivers, short term exemptions and extensions as well as electronic Driver Qualification Cards (DQCs),” said the department.

“Views were also sought on proposals for a test option for periodic renewal.

“Having considered these views, the government has decided DCPC will benefit from reforms to increase flexibility when renewing and regaining the qualification.”

As a result, DfT says it will consult further on the introduction of a new periodic test for N-DCPC as an alternative to 35 hours of training for drivers wishing to renew their DCPC.

“This would also be available for drivers looking to return to the sector and will form an accelerated return pathway for them,” said the department.

A specific return pathway will be introduced for drivers with lapsed DCPCs, comprising a seven-hour return to training module, which will be available from spring 2025 and reviewed further to that in conjunction with the consideration of introducing a test. The remaining 28 hours would then need to be completed within 12 months of the seven-hour module, says DfT.

While the total 35-hour requirement will remain for N-DCPC, the department says it will also reduce the minimum course length from the current seven hours down to 3.5 hours, and remove the requirement to complete split courses over two consecutive days.

It will also decouple e-learning from trainer-led courses for N-DCPC, and develop more course content with the DVSA, as well as encouraging informal assessment at the end of modules.

“Changes for training reforms will be brought into force through secondary legislation using powers within the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act,” said DfT.

“The intention is to bring forward this secondary legislation to commence in summer 2024 but this will not include the introduction of the new periodic test.

“Proposals for periodic testing will be brought into force at a later point which could be via secondary legislation or further to a slot in an appropriate bill, and will be the subject of further consultation.”

Northern Ireland’s devolved administration has already indicated that the planned change relating to periodic training and returning drivers set for 2024 implementation in Great Britain should also extend to the province.

A total of 1,190 questionnaire responses were received as part of the exercise, and over 170 emails in addition. Of the survey respondents, 63 per cent were professional drivers, 15 per cent trainers and 14 per cent operators.

Appetite for change was high, with 48 per cent of all respondents calling for reform and a further 39 per cent for abolition of DCPC, while only 12 per cent said there should be no change. Among drivers, abolition was more popular than reform, but fleet operators were around three times more likely to favour reform than abolition.

“Most professional drivers who said DCPC should be abolished stated that the expense and time required outweighs the value it brings,” reported DfT.

“Some also reported that it was a deterrent to join or stay in the industry and a few explicitly expressed it was leading drivers with long-term experience to leave the sector as they did not feel they needed training.

“Drivers in favour of reform mostly felt that training was useful, but courses should be shorter and more flexible to fit in with their workloads. These opinions were also shared by employers.

“Employers wanting DCPC to remain the same mainly felt that training allowed for content to be tailored to driver and company needs and that a single form of DCPC eliminates confusion for cross-border operations.”

A full analysis of the consultation responses received can be read at the website, here.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) noted its long history of campaigning for DCPC reform while acknowledging the role of continuous training in ensuring professionalism and safety standards are maintained.

Declan Pang, RHA director of public affairs and policy, England, said: “We support the proposals for greater flexibility in how the 35 hours of training is delivered, greater use of e-learning and a fast route for returning drivers.”

However, he added: “We note that the government will consult further on introducing a new periodic test as an alternative to 35 hours of training for drivers looking to renew their DCPC.

“We believe the periodic test alone is not in line with maintaining safety standards unless it is combined with mandatory training. Therefore, if a test option was to be introduced, it can only be alongside formal training.”

Logistics UK also emphasised the flexibility that the reformed system would bring in terms of how and when training is taken.

Chris Yarsley, senior policy manager for road freight regulation at Logistics UK, said: “Road safety is the bedrock on which professional drivers operate, and the Driver CPC regime is at the heart of this commitment.

“As we enter the next five-year cycle of training and qualifications for the nation’s HGV drivers, Logistics UK is heartened to see that government’s new legislation will provide more flexibility for professional drivers to undertake training in smaller blocks of time… while still attaining the standards required.

“The increased flexibility that the new legislation will permit will enable logistics businesses to keep goods moving through the supply chain, while ensuring that their drivers remain up to date on key professional driving legislation.”

The changes would also provide more e-learning opportunities, said Yarsley, to give drivers time to complete training away from the classroom.

He added that the new seven-hour return to work course for lapsed drivers was: “good news for businesses still finding it hard to recruit new drivers to the sector, and [will] ease the passage back into the workforce for those returning to the industry – with time available for them to undertake their full CPC training.”

However, Logistics UK also aired caution over proposals to replace training with a periodic test.

“HGV driving is, by its nature, one of the most heavily regulated industries in the economy for a reason – the risks involved for drivers and other road users cannot be overlooked,” said Yarsley.

“The industry remains concerned by this proposal, which would replace training with a periodic test – in the opinion of our members, this will not provide sufficient assessment and evaluation to ensure drivers’ abilities are fully tested and should simply be discounted now.

“The safety of all road users is of paramount importance, and along with the rest of the industry, Logistics UK will maintain the logistics sector’s pressure on government to ensure that professional drivers can continue to move goods both in the UK and overseas safely and effectively.”

Meanwhile, training provider TTC also welcomed various aspects of the planned reforms.

“These changes, which recognise that time is money but not at the cost of safety, will protect drivers and fleet operators striving to achieve best practice and improve operational efficiencies,” said Jim Kirkwood, CEO of TTC.

“We anticipated that the government’s consultation would ultimately lead to a step-change in the process of renewing and regaining DCPC qualifications, but we are particularly delighted with the increased flexibility with which drivers will soon be able to achieve the required 35 hours of periodic training.

“In preparation for reform, we have already introduced a wide variety of 3.5-hour modules into our Driver CPC periodic training programme. These shorter, sharper blocks of learning allow us to cover multiple core subjects within the current seven-hour course structure offering more effective and cost-efficient use of training hours for drivers and their employers.

“The format of our 3.5-hour modules are perfectly placed to be adapted to meet shorter Driver CPC training course requirements. In addition, reducing the minimum duration of courses by half gives operators and drivers the flexibility to cover more subjects within their 35 periodic training hours, better meeting individual driver needs and increasing levels of engagement.

“Decoupling e-learning from trainer-led courses is another significant move that will vastly improve the convenience for drivers who will be able to undertake their training, around their work and personal schedules with greater ease. This, combined with the shorter trainer-led courses makes it easier for drivers to remain DCPC compliant.”

Supporting the DfT’s decision to consult further on the introduction of a new periodic test as an alternative to 35 hours of training, Jim Kirkwood concluded: “Moving to periodic testing as an alternative for domestic drivers would be a significant shift and not one that can be implemented without ensuring that any new testing framework is robust and doesn’t put drivers, operators and other road users at risk.”