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Concerns raised over new government consultation proposing significant changes to professional driver training requirements

On 2 March 2023 the Department for Transport published an open consultation on proposed changes to the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence.

The current system

Under current law, originally introduced as a result of EU legislation, professional drivers of most large goods and passenger carrying vehicles must hold a Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (DCPC) qualification in addition to their professional driving licence. This qualification must then be maintained by completing 35 hours of periodic training every 5 years. This cost will usually fall on the employer.

The proposed changes

The proposed changes would create two parallel system:

  • a National DCPC, and
  • an International DCPC.

Both systems would permit domestic journeys within Great Britain, but only the International DCPC would permit journeys to and from the EU.

The International DCPC would not change from the present system and would remain aligned with EU law. Significant changes, however, are proposed for the National DCPC. Under the proposals, instead of 35 hours of mandatory training every 5 years, drivers would potentially have two options to renew their National DCPC:

  • a reformed training programme, or
  • a periodic test.

The reformed training programme would still require 35 hours of training every 5 years, but this training would be more flexible. There would be no minimum duration for training courses, and no minimum time to complete split courses. There will also be a 7 hour “return to driving” module.

The periodic test would require no mandatory training at all but would simply be a 1 to 1.5 hour multiple choice theory test, to be completed every 5 years.

What this means for companies which operate goods or passenger transport vehicles

If taken forward, the periodic test would significantly reduce costs for operators, with each test expected to cost between £40 to £70 compared to £250 to £500 under the current system. The proposed reformed training programme is intended to provide operators with far greater flexibility over how training can be delivered.

Some industry bodies have come out against the proposed changes, particularly the proposal to replace 35 hours of professional training with a single 1.5 hr multiple choice test. In a statement Logistics UK have described the changes as “simply unacceptable” and suggested that they could “compromise the vital safety on which much of our industry is based.”

Should these proposals be implemented, operators of goods or passenger transport vehicles must still ensure that all drivers have appropriate and comprehensive training for the work they undertake, irrespective of whether this is part of a mandated 35 hours every 5 years. Failure to do so could result in prosecution in the event of a serious incident, and/or a referral to the Office of the Traffic Commissioner.

If you have any concerns, then please get in touch. Our transport regulatory lawyers specialise in operator licensing and road transport enforcement.

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