The EC is currently reviewing the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence – although it will be some time before concrete changes emerge. In the meantime, how well does the qualification work for UK fleet operators? And how can they maximise the benefits?
The Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (DCPC) has forced fleet operators to review, and often repackage, their training in order to comply with the law.
As Freight Transport Association (FTA) head of licensing policy and compliance information James Firth points out: “The EU didn’t invent driver training. When the Driver CPC came in, operators had to revisit their training to make it fit with the directive.”
Despite criticisms, the DCPC has become an accepted part of the industry, with the major concern being about how companies can ensure a return on investment.
In 2009 and 2010 most companies and trainers focused on fuel-efficient driving as the most financially rewarding learning programme. There has since been a cultural shift toward safety, stemming from the high political profile of vulnerable road users and the acknowledgement that fleet costs can be reduced by risk mitigation, and so lower insurance and minor damage claims.
Arnold Monk, head of training at the Road Haulage Association, says compliance issues top its billing. Basic topics such as driver walk-around checks, safe loading, drivers’ hours and digital tachographs score highly with operators because of the potential impact of breaches.
Digital tachographs are frequently updated and it is challenging for drivers – particularly those who did not grow up with technology – to keep adapting.
Monk says the trick with the DCPC is to study course content rather than choose on price. “There is also a lot of scope for bespoke courses,” he says. “We have built a course for a food company which covers standard issues like drivers’ hours but also health and safety and customer care as it relates to their sector. They introduced a new complex trailer so we included a session on that, as well as their new model digitach and VRUs because their customer wanted it. The syllabus and approval process is flexible enough to develop an interactive course which packs in a lot.”
Some courses are entirely sector-specific, such as Knowles Transport’s course for the sugar beet industry, designed in conjunction with British Sugar.
The DCPC can introduce practices to a firm which have benefits beyond its vocational fleet. For instance, when leading stockholder of engineering metals and plastics Smith Metal Centres engaged the FTA to conduct its Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) audit, the industry body recommended that car fleet drivers be trained in fuel-efficient driving as well as its HGV drivers.
Similarly, companies accredited to the FTA Van Excellence programme have sometimes chosen to extend the relevant parts of their Driver CPC training to the van fleet. Document storage specialist Iron Mountain rolled out DCPC training throughout its van drivers and says that, together with its telematics system to enforce sound driver behaviour, it has cut road incidents by 71%.
“We put all our van drivers through our DCPC training, even though there is no legal requirement to do so, because issues such as safety, compliant loading and good customer care are relevant to everyone,” says Iron Mountain head of logistics support, western Europe Rory Morgan.
“We are renewing our Joint Approvals Unit for Periodic Training (JAUPT) accreditation to deliver DCPC internally as this lets us collate the courses, coach our drivers and ensure the content is bespoke. We use our own vehicles in the courses; it brings the message home if the drivers can directly associate what they are learning with the job.”
FTA offers a Certificate of Driver Competence for van drivers, using the DCPC model.
Operators can also time courses so that the business is not impacted. O’Donovan Waste recently chose to commission its own one-day Staying Legal course for 45 of its drivers, rather than take FORS-funded training, because it could run the course on-site, out of hours and so not interrupt shift patterns.
Top tips for getting the most from Driver CPC
Integrate it with the rest of your corporate training. Although only vocational drivers need to do Driver CPC courses, they may be of use to other members of the organisation. Equally, the focus with all training should be about consolidating skills and preparing in-house talent for other roles as well as their existing one.
Choose a reputable training provider. Trade associations are obvious examples, as well as dedicated training companies such as Novadata or vehicle manufacturers such as Daf and Scania. Many well-established regional haulage firms have also embarked on third-party training with their JAUPT-approved schemes, such as ETS Distribution, Transervice Express Transport or David Watson Transport. Make sure that the course content is suitable to your operation and your vehicles, and is delivered by people with a genuine understanding of the transport industry. Trainers should also be qualified in teaching adults.
Identify those areas where you most need improvement: for instance VRU safety, low speed manoeuvring or drivers’ hours. Harness the statutory training to help deliver specific commercial goals.
Work out the most effective method for the timing of training, whether in a rolling one-week block or, more commonly, specific days spread over the five-year period. Do not leave significant amounts of training to the end of the cycle as it reduces operational flexibility and the availability of good training provision.
Stop thinking of driver training as 2009-2014, 2014-2019 cycles. As new drivers join the industry, their individual timescales will be different to this. Your training schedule must monitor the requirement of each individual licence.
Sell the concept to drivers, emphasising the professional benefit they can gain. Engagement is essential to useful results.
Reinforce training with internal protocols, policies and management reminders. There is no point in teaching one thing and doing another.
Decide which metrics you will use to measure the impact of the training.