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To Train or Not To Train…

3rd December, 2012

I am frequently asked whether LGV operators are obliged to provide Driver CPC training to their employee LGV drivers.

The answer is to a degree fairly straight forward – no you are not.  There is no black letter of the law requiring operators to do this.  However, there are other considerations here that might well indicate that the smart money is to do so.

All operator licence holders have given undertakings to have systems in place to ensure that the vehicles they operate do so in a compliant manner with respect to drivers’ hours, speed limits, the avoidance of overloading, proper maintenance, the prompt reporting of defects and in accordance with the laws relating to the driving and operation of vehicles.

The Traffic Commissioners take a very dim view of breaches of these undertakings as they lie at the heart of road safety and fair competition which are the essence of the licensing regime.  Licence revocations and lesser regulatory action will all be linked to such breaches.

What has this got to do with training? Well, any system put in place will fail if those that have to follow it do not know what is required of them, so training lies at the root of pretty much all these undertakings.  At Public Inquiry any operator who claims that he expects his drivers to know what to do without being trained will get short shrift.

There is a clear expectation that operators will have a thorough induction process that includes training so that new drivers know what is expected of them.  This invariable focuses on those undertakings that are particularly dependent on the drivers’ conduct – i.e. drivers’ hours, daily defect reporting and the adherence to speed limits.  The Traffic Commissioners also expect that refresher training be given in these essential areas on an annual basis.  Where operators face regulatory action the Traffic Commissioners will often impose an undertaking that specifically requires such training be provided and in recent months this is often expressed as having to be Driver CPC.

At the end of the day if time and effort is going to have to be put into training it might as well be done to maximum benefit and meet this requirement.

Why else might it make good sense to provide this training?  Well a fleet of LGVs is going nowhere without drivers and a study earlier this year by Skills for Logistics predicted that there is going to be a significant shortage of drivers in the next five years.  According to this report:

“Fewer people are taking LGV tests and over the last four years there has been a 31 per cent decline in the number of individuals passing their LGV test.  Furthermore, not all licence holders are becoming professional drivers.  New entrants now have to complete an initial Driver qualification and go on to obtain a Driver Qualification Card (DQC) to drive professionally.  Just over 12,000 individuals obtained DQCs issued for both LGV and PCV (Passenger Carrying Vehicle) – the DSA does not distinguish between the two – in 2010/11, which means just 44 per cent of those passing tests can drive professionally.

The driver shortage problem is made more acute by the fact that 16 per cent of LGV drivers are aged 60 or above, while just 1 per cent of employed drivers are under 25, partly due to the cost of insurance. Those retiring over the next 5 years will leave a potential replacement demand of 48,000 drivers.

The report identifies a sub-optimal uptake of driver CPC periodic training with a predicted shortfall of 1.7 million training hours or nearly 250,000 seven-hour courses by 2014.  Currently only 8.2 per cent of drivers have received their DQC as a result of completing 35 hours worth of training required for a CPC.”

I think that quite clearly the message here is the need for operators to act now to try and alleviate what could become a significant problem.  As September 2014 approaches the cost of Driver CPC training is only going to go in one direction – up.  It will become increasingly hard to obtain good quality training at a time and place that will suit the operator.

After September 2014 (or now for new drivers) any driver found to be driving without a DQC will be breaking the law and will be sent before the Traffic Commissioner for a driver conduct hearing.  If at that hearing his/her explanation is that his employer would not provide the training or worse still would not give time off to undertake the training, that will put the operator in breach of the undertaking to ensure that the laws relating to the driving and operation of vehicles is being complied with which will of course include ensuring that employed drivers have a valid DQC.

So yes, operators can adopt a policy of “if you want to drive for me, you must have obtained the relevant qualifications”, but is this going to be the right way forward?  I certainly think it is not an approach that would find favour with the Traffic Commissioners.

 

Please note that the information and opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily comprehensive and do not purport to give professional advice.  Specific advice concerning individual situations should be obtained from Tim Culpin at Aaron & Partners LLP at [email protected] or 01244 405533.

 

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