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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Will the UK's Transport Industry Grind To A Halt in 2014?

Time is running out for UK's commercial vehicle drivers to complete 35 hours of approved training to gain their CPC qualification.

If you're not involved in the haulage industry, you're probably not aware of the new driver CPC rules. CPC stands for Certificate of Professional Competence. Under a European Directive, most lorry drivers will need to gain this qualification by September 2014. To get the qualification drivers need to attend five seven-hour approved courses covering fuel efficient driving, rules and regulations and health and safety.

Two years after the clock started ticking the pace of training is alarmingly slow. There seems to be several reasons. The strangest amongst some operators is the urban myth that " if no one does this they'll have to extend the deadline". This is probably wishful thinking as this is a European Directive enshrined in UK law.

Another reason is that the current economic climate is making companies very reluctant to spend money on training of any description, and even more reluctant to invest in a planned driver CPC training programme. They fear that drivers could leave taking their CPC accreditation with them, as it's the driver's qualification, not the company's.

And why would they suddenly leave?

Their concern is that companies who have made no provision for CPC training could offer better terms to poach drivers who have their 35 hours of training completed. So the responsible employer pays for the training, and another company could reap the benefits.

There is some early evidence to support this view. In 2009, one of our clients devised a five year plan to deliver seven hours of training every year, for five years. Two years in, and having delivered 14 hours of CPC training to 200 drivers, 40 people have already left the company. The 40 recently recruited replacements do not have a single hour of CPC training between them. His reaction has been to postpone the training until late 2014. His logic is that the later he leaves the training, the more sure he can be that his investment will at least give him 200 qualified drivers. He hopes that there will then be limited opportunity for competitors desperate to recruit CPC qualified drivers before the deadline, to poach is drivers. His last minute strategy will probably succeed because we are contracted to provide the training, and we will ensure that it is delivered. But for other companies who have a similar plan, or no plan at all, the dangers are that there simply will not be the training capacity available for the last minute rush.

We spoke to one company last week who simply has not heard of CPC training and was shocked to find out what this means to their operation. The owner's first reaction was to wash his hands of any responsibility. Ultimately it is the driver's responsibility to ensure that they get their 35 hours of training registered. But it did slowly dawn on him that it might after all be in his best interest to help his drivers with the training. After the deadline, drivers and their employers can be fined if they drive without their Driver Qualification Card. This is issued to the driver once the 35 hours of training have been registered with the DSA.

So will the UK haulage industry grind to a halt in September 2014? Will supermarket shelves be empty? It's unlikely. The major distribution companies are making the necessary level of investment now.

But hundreds of other distribution companies might want to start thinking about the consequences of not being able to find a training company able to accommodate them in the months leading up to the deadline.

Paul Beresford is Sales & Marketing Director for Defensive Driver Training Limited http://www.drivercpcgroup.com/ who specialise in corporate driver training programmes for company vehicle drivers. Over 150,000 drivers have attended defensive driving courses from more than 1500 organisations.


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