Next step for Driver CPC reforms as September deadline looms

By Categories: NewsPublished On: Friday 31 May 2024

As the quinquennial spike in demand for Driv­er CPC training for lorry drivers begins to ramp up, the Department for Transport (DfT) has laid its proposed reforms to the qualification before parliament, following the publication late last year of the results of a consultation on the topic.

But the draft secondary legislation was laid just days before the prime minister Rishi Su­nak’s announcement in May of a general election; and while the DfT said it hoped the changes would come into force later this year, this may now be contingent on the priorities of whatever government is formed from 5 July.

The proposed changes fell far short of the abolition of the Driver CPC qualification which some had called for in the wake of Brexit – but suggested a two-tier system in which drivers who didn’t need to use the qualification abroad could opt for a National Driver CPC (N-DCPC) with a more flexible approach to training. Those who wished to drive professionally abroad could continue with the current EU-compliant qualification, now referred to as the Internation­al Driver CPC (I-DCPC).

The changes DfT laid would, subject to parlia­mentary approval, introduce N-DCPC, and allow training for the qualification to be completed in blocks of three and a half hours at a time, rath­er than the seven hours required under I-DCPC – though N-DCPC training providers would still be able to offer longer courses if they wished.

The reforms would also increase flexibility around e-learning, allowing some courses to be taken online in their totality, at the workplace or at home, with a total of 12 hours’ e-learning allowable across the overall required 35 hours of training. With I-DCPC, e-learning can only be included as part of a longer, trainer-led course.

A blend of I-DCPC and N-DCPC courses could be taken to achieve an N-DCPC, providing that they totalled 35 hours.

While these changes were slated for 2024, uncertainty around the exact timescale even prior to the election an­nouncement, and now the dissolution of parliament and the possibility of a modified approach by a new govern­ment, mean that drivers and operators would be wise not to postpone the booking of the courses needed to bring drivers’ training hours up to the 35 that many will require before 9 September.

Even in the event that changes were to progress swiftly, many training provid­ers would no doubt need time to draw up new three-and-a-half hour courses and get them approved.

Under the current plans, another two phases of reform would be expected to follow.

The first is the creation of an easier process by which vocational licence holders with a lapsed Driver CPC can return to commercial driving. DfT hoped that this would come into force next year. This could either be done by taking 35 hours of training to gain an I-DCPC (as is the sit­uation now), or taking a new seven-hour ‘national return to driving’ course to achieve an N-DCPC and start professional driving again in the confines of the UK, then take an ad­ditional 28 hours of I-DCPC within 12 months to gain a full I-DCPC and start international driving.

Alternatively, drivers only re­quiring an N-DCPC could take the return to driving course, start driving within the UK then take an additional 28 hours of either N-DCPC or I-DCPC train­ing within 12 months to gain the N-DCPC qualification.

Options involving the return to driving course will only be available to those whose en­titlement expired between 60 days and two years ago.

The second reform involves introducing the alternative of a periodic examination to the current non-examination training for N-DCPC holders. The department is planning a further consultation on this before any proposals are put to parliament.

This will ask how long the test should be, what it will in­clude, and whether it should be specific to passenger or goods licences, or consist of one test to suit both licence types.

Earlier in May, the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agen­cy warned operators of the anticipated spike in training demand as 9 September ap­proaches. It advised operators to check their drivers’ training records in plenty of time and ensure that those who need to complete additional courses to record 35 hours of training are booked on them.

It added that many drivers tend to leave their training until the last six months of en­titlement. In 2019, at the end of the previous five-year cycle, the average number of train­ing hours recorded per month was five times that of the year before.

Drivers who don’t complete their 35 hours in time cannot drive professionally until their training is complete and those that do risk a fine of up to £1,000.

For data protection reasons, employers cannot access their drivers’ training records di­rectly, so transport managers will need to ask drivers for their co-operation in checking their training records.

John Keelan Edwards, man­aging director of Driver Hire Training, said: “We are firm believers that Driver CPC is a good thing, for people in logis­tics and for the wider public. So the news that the govern­ment is planning to maintain and enhance Driver CPC will be good for the industry, as the changes will make it a more flexible, accessible qual­ification.

“The changes will make it easier for former drivers to get back into driving professional­ly and easier for current driv­ers to renew training.”

He added: “The updates will also make sure those con­sidering a career in logistics know that there is a pathway for them, and there is ongoing investment in personal devel­opment.

“The fact that it will now be possible to do modules non-consecutively makes Driv­er CPC more flexible for driv­ers, with 3.5 hours of learning a good way to keep people en­gaged with the training.

“Whilst no timescales have yet been announced, Driv­er Hire are ready for the new model, as we already have a set of 20+ 3.5hr modules cov­ering a wide range of topics.

“We will continue to monitor and work closely with the rele­vant authorities on any future changes.”

But he added: “In the mean­time – for many drivers, these changes will only be relevant for the next cycle of their Driv­er CPC. Drivers need to check their driver qualification cards and if they are due to expire in the next few months, they need to get on and do their training hours as soon as possible.

“Demand will ramp up as the September deadline ap­proaches so it’s best to get the training in now.”