Driver CPC arrives but lacks punch, say critics

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Some 800,000 professional drivers will be affected by the European Union-wide Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) directive, which comes into force for lorry drivers from 10th September. Although aimed at raising the skills of professional drivers, and boosting road safety, the fact that there is no legal requirement for assessment has raised more than a few eyebrows across the industry.

Nick Allen, general manager of training at the Freight Transport Association, says he was “disappointed” to find that there is no requirement for training assessment. “A certificate of achievement is far more powerful than a certificate of attendance,” he says. After all, if good money has been paid to train, is it not preferable to hold some concrete proof of merit for your efforts?

The FTA has created Driver CPC Plus – a version which does include formal assessment. This, of course, is not compulsory but it’s certainly advisable over a course which doesn’t provide any kind of assessment other than that the drivers turn up. The RTITB has also developed Master Trainer, which is designed to add value to the qualification. RTITB’s David Higginbottom reckons there is nothing to stop drivers attending the same sessions on the same subject over and over again, since they “do not have to demonstrate that they have actually learnt anything”.

Drivers who don’t enrol in a course which involves assessment could be caught out at a later date, if seeking employment for a job, only to find they are passed over in favour of a driver who has completed a course and been assessed. Chris Grimshaw, driving school manager, Hermes, says: “Assessment is vital, whether part of Driver CPC or not…a driver is an ambassador for the company and deals with your customers and members of the public out on the road, so it is essential that they operate in a safe manner at all times.”

Jenny Aljaedy of parcel carrier Nightfreight agrees, saying: “There is a real need to ensure drivers are putting their knowledge to the test and are able to demonstrate what they have learnt in a safe training environment.”

Skills for Logistics conducted an employer consultation which revealed that logistics companies see the legislation as an opportunity to encourage drivers to update their skills and improve safety.

However, it also reported that employers had criticised the Driver CPC saying “it is not sufficiently prescriptive, needing 35 hours of periodic training in five years, but with no legal requirement for assessment”.

SfL reckons there is “real opportunity” for companies to benefit from the required training “if employers approach it in the right way and seek training that includes assessment”.

The Driver Standards Agency has defended the decision not to include assessment, saying that the prospect of an exam may be daunting. DSA’s David Shepherd says that for people who have been driving for 20 to 30 years, an exam would make them feel like they’re heading “back to school”.

Nevertheless, says Allen: “I would like to see a qualification in which you can measure the learning.”

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