Thousands of truck drivers risk not being able to drive if they fail to complete training prior to the Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) deadline.
For many professional drivers the deadline to complete their training and maintain their current Driver Qualification Card (DQC) is September 9. They must have completed and recorded 35 hours of periodic training by that date.
However, figures suggest that a third of drivers may still need to complete their training to continue to drive professionally, or they may face time off the road.
It is illegal for professional drivers to drive without a DQC, carrying a maximum fine of £1,000 for both the driver and the operator licence holder. These offences will be referred to the Traffic Commissioner who will then consider what action to take. This could include suspending both the driver’s licence and the operator’s licence.
Head of national standards and accreditation at the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), Bob Hannigan, said: “We encourage all drivers to plan ahead and complete their training in good time. Don’t leave it to the last minute when demand for training courses will be high.
“Missing the deadline will mean time off the road or being faced with a £1,000 fine for driving illegally, without a valid DQC.”
The CPC qualification was introduced in 2009 for professional bus, coach and lorry drivers, with the aim of improving road safety and maintaining high standards of driving. It states 35 hours of periodic training must be completed every five years.
Drivers with acquired rights – those with vocational licences pre-September 2009 – have a deadline of September 9 to complete the next phase of their training.
Prior to September 2014, DVSA had issued around 700,000 DQCs to drivers with acquired rights. These cards will expire on September 9. DVSA has issued about 600,000 DQCs to all drivers since September 2014.
In a survey of some 200 fleet professionals, conducted by CPC training provider Fleet Source at the beginning of August, more than half (53%) said they were worried about the availability of fully CPC-trained drivers after the September deadline.
The survey also showed that with just one month to go, almost a third of drivers still needed to complete their mandatory 35 hours of training.
The majority of transport managers who responded to the survey – some 71% – said their contracted drivers had already completed their 35 hours.
Nick Caesari, chief executive officer at Fleet Source, said: “The bigger picture is that there is a clear concern in the industry that there will be a shortfall in CPC-compliant drivers after September 9.
“Some two-thirds of fleet professionals who responded to our survey, rightly said that it was the drivers’ responsibility to complete the required training, but employers also know that they must ensure that their contracted drivers are compliant.”
The Fleet Source survey showed that the vast majority of transport managers favoured spreading the required 35 hours training evenly across the five-year period, or across three to four years, rather than playing catch-up in the final year.
Caesari continued: “Our customers are already scheduling their next five-year training programmes and we are seeing a marked preference for the one course per year option.
“We think that will be the trend across the industry as many respondents to our survey cited difficulty in finding suitable courses and trainers with capacity in recent months.”
Analysis of CPC training figures by Keith Gray, general manager for training, audits and standards at the Freight Transport Association (FTA), highlights the shortfall in training when compared with previous years.
He says that from 2016, there has been about two million fewer training hours taken by drivers compared with five years ago.
He also believes Brexit could, in part, be to blame for some drivers not having completed their training.
Many wrongly believed that the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU) would mean the CPC requirement, an EU directive, would be scrapped.
However, the Government and the DVSA have made clear that, following the UK’s withdrawal, professional drivers of lorries, buses and coaches will still need a valid CPC to continue to operate in the UK.
Furthermore, Gray said: “One of the problems for the industry is that those passing the licence after 2009 get their own five-year period – it’s an administrative nightmare.”
However, with those drivers who had ‘acquired rates’ and share the five-year period ending September 9 eventually leaving the industry, he believes the periodic peak will eventually “flatten out”.
Mark Taylor, head of learning and development in England and Wales for the Road Haulage Association (RHA), agrees.
He told Commercial Fleet: “The 2024 cycle is likely to be the last peak as many of these drivers will potentially have retired or at least are likely to in the preceding five years.
“Therefore, demand for CPC is more likely to be flat as drivers look to meet their training requirement within their own cycle.”
For example, 182,000 DQCs have been issued to newly qualified drivers since 2014, and each of these drivers will have their own individual renewal date.
“This is a really important shift,” says John Keelan Edwards, driver risk management director at Driver Hire. “In the past year, around 3,300 new commercial licences have been issued each month.
“The number of individual deadlines is increasing all the time, so instead of focusing on one date, smart fleet managers need to take a rolling approach to driver CPC.”
There are more than 3,000 CPC training courses to choose from covering a range of topics, such as customer service or best practice when accommodating disabled passengers and ensuring the safety of vulnerable road users or avoiding bridge strikes.