Driver engagement vital to prevent CPC from becoming a ‘box-ticking exercise’


The Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) has its critics.

John Luty, fleet management and vehicle engineering manager at North Lincolnshire Council, told Commercial Fleet last year that, while he believed in the concept, the delivery of CPC was “flawed”. In fact, he felt it was pushing drivers away from the industry.

“It’s an attendance at a training course; the candidates don’t have to participate,” he said. “There is no test at the end – they can literally turn up and read a newspaper all day.”

Due to the cost to the individual and the company, this wasn’t good enough, he said.

A growing number of commercial fleet operators have opted to launch their own Driver CPC courses. So how do fleets ensure that CPC is not a box-ticking exercise?

Keith Gray, general training manager at the Freight Transport Association (FTA), believes fleets need to consider the ‘three Rs’: relevancy, reinforcement and regularity.

“The companies that do it well start by looking at what they want to achieve and the issues they want to address. They model the training to their own policies and procedures to make it relevant to what the driver does as a job. For example, if they do domestic hours, don’t do two hours on EU rules,” Gray says.

He believes that engagement starts when the driver is told they are on the course. Reinforcement means involvement of the transport manager, the quality of the facilities and refreshments and the state of the training rooms.

“It’s all part of the experience,” he adds.

Finally, the training should be regular. Drivers need to complete 35 hours of CPC training every five years. However, one unintended consequence of this rule is the fact that many leave it to the last 12-18 months.

Driver CPC was introduced in 2009 (2008 for PCV drivers) and over the initial five-year period “you’d expect the uptake to be constant at around 20% per annum”, according to Gray.

However, figures from the Department for Transport show that 40% of uploaded hours took place in the five 18 months.

This sounds like many companies are getting over a hump rather than treating CPC as professional development,” Gray says. “We recommend drivers doing a day a year. Legislation is constantly changing so this becomes an opportunity to brief them every year – that’s professional development.”

A poll by haulage recruitment company ADR in late 2013 found that, of 1,000 drivers asked, only 37% had started their training, let alone completed it.

Andrew Waldon, managing director at ADR, says one reason for the slow uptake was that many older drivers were planning to leave the industry by the deadline rather than complete the Driver CPC.

A report at the same time by Skills for Logistics revealed a shortfall of 1.7 million driver training hours. The average driver had completed an average of only two days of training.

Low uptake was only part of the issue. Arguably of most concern was the quality and availability of the courses, with a plethora of providers setting up shop to cater for the millions of hours necessary over the five-year period.

Quality suffered while, because of the tight timescale, it was a case of just getting drivers through the 35 hours.

“Lots of training providers rushed into the industry to exploit that opportuity from mandatory training,” Gray says. “But some of those courses were created on the back of the syllabus and provided information – but information is not knowledge.”

The driver CPC evolves

CPC training has evolved in recent years, although there are still issues, as outlined by Luty.

It’s important for operators to ensure the training their employees undertake is fit for purposes and addresses the needs of younger drivers. It is also vital that CPC is more than simply a box-ticking exercise – drivers have to get engaged in the process to fully benefit.

“Operators have drivers that have gone through the initial training phase so are looking for the next batch of courses to take the knowledge to the next level, with many looking at specific courses that will add to the company’s overall operational benefit,” says Gray.

As well as organisations such as the FTA and the Road Haulage Association (RHA), truck manufacturers have also entering the fray, offering a full range of courses either through their own facilities or their dealer networks.

Those courses often focus on better driving style with a particular emphasis on improving fuel economy, which can help save fleets money.

Quality of the training also appears to be on the rise as the qualification evolves.

For instance, FTA has introduced delegate workbooks, with spaces for notes to be made to act as an aide memoir after the courses, and has piloted the use of electronic scoring to aid delegate interaction.

“This has been a big boom for engagement. If used correctly, it sparks discussions and that is where the learning takes place,” Gray says. “We include quizzes and can assess delegates responses and where they are struggling. We can also assess trainers’ ability to put the message across.”

FTA has also extended training to van drivers through its recently launched Van Excellence Certificate of Competence (commonly referred to as a ‘Driver’s Passport’).

Bespoke training, often reflecting the specialist operational needs of a company, is also on the rise – for instance,  ‘carriage of dangerous goods’ courses or ‘prevention of criminality and trafficking’ for those on international duties.

Numerous quality standard programmes, exist to audit providers; one of the best known is Skills for Logistics, which maintains a live database of all endorsed training providers.

Once assessed, training providers can use a kitemark in their marketing to demonstrate to employers that they are delivering high quality, industry endorsed training. However, it’s not compulsory.

Ross Moloney, CEO of Skills for Logistics says: “We know there are many training providers who would like to compete on quality, not just price, and that there are employers and individuals who want more visibility about the standard of training in the sector.’’

According to Gray, fleets are now starting to consider return on investment and using Driver CPC to achieve key objectives, such as reducing accident rates, improving defect reporting and safety inspections, and addressing drivers’ hours infringements.

He adds: “Drivers are also becoming more receptive to  the training. They realise that it is here to stay and there is value to it.”

Catering for the next generation

The Drivers CPC should be an excellent tool to use in recruiting new drivers. It delivers a suite of high quality professional courses covering a whole range of interactive and worthwhile subject areas which showcase the industry  and its professionalism in the best possible light.

One organisation helping to promote driving as a career is Think Logistics. Experts working in logistics visit schools and colleges to educate 16-19 year olds on the industry and the opportunities that exist.

Meanwhile, the Skills for Logistics Pre-Employment Training programme is open to anyone over 18. It offers a ‘Certificate to Work’ for new drivers so they will be able to demonstrate they have the knowledge, competence and skills to be a safe driver, while also utilising the Driver CPC principles.

Although Driver CPC has been slightly ‘off target’ in some cases, used correctly it provides a vital role in ensuring commercial vehicle drivers act in a professional manner while behind the wheel.

The industry is finally starting to engage and appreciate this training and its learning opportunities for drivers.

Skills, knowledge and road safety

Driver CPC is a European Union Directive introduced in 2009 (2008 for PCV drivers) to harmonise training and driving standards across the continent. The aims are:

■ To improve road safety.

■ To underpin and expand on current driver knowledge, e.g. driver hours, digital tachographs, rules and regulations, etc.

■ To ensure new entrants have the required skills and knowledge to carry out their duties as professional drivers.

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  • Transport Factory - 22/02/2016 21:28

    Fantastic article! I will be combing these principles with my 10 years transport experience and my teams 100 years combined transport experience when I soon open my state of the art classroom and website launching very soon (ETA 1 WEEK) based in Essex and Birmingham please take a look at Transport Factory! we adhere to the industry standard of excellence and will continue to push boundaries! Great article will definitely be reading more!

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