Last reviewed 1 April 2014

Vikki Woodfine, Associate at DWF LLP, looks at the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (DCPC) and the quality of the courses on the market. As the deadline for completion approaches, it is important that haulage operators do not simply leap for any available course and that careful consideration is given to the training that drivers receive.

What is the DCPC?

The DCPC was introduced to the haulage industry with the aim of improving road safety and maintaining professionalism in the industry and those representing it. The UK introduced the DCPC for HGV drivers as a mandatory legal requirement in September 2009. As a general rule, it applies to all professional drivers of vehicles over 3.5 tonnes.

Any new driver coming into the industry (after September 2009) has to complete an initial qualification that requires the candidate to complete and pass four distinct parts.

  1. A theory test in which there are two separate tests — multiple-choice and hazard perception.

  2. A driver CPC case studies test — a computer-based exercise with studies based on real-life situations.

  3. A driving ability test.

  4. A practical demonstration test (vehicle safety).

Once all four parts have been passed, a driver qualification card (DQC) is issued, which drivers must keep with them when they are driving for work. Professional drivers who were already in the industry prior to the introduction of the DCPC received what was known as “acquired rights”, meaning they did not have to complete the initial qualification.

However, to maintain the DCPC qualification, all drivers must complete 35 hours of periodic training every five years. Drivers can check their DCPC training record online to see how many hours they have done. This is also a check that any prudent operator would make when employing a new driver — an operator could be left in the lurch taking on a driver now who has yet to complete the full hours of training, as the deadline is fast approaching. Unlike the initial training, there is no pass or fail element to the periodic training.

When should the DCPC be completed?

Everybody within the haulage industry is, or should be, well aware of the fast-approaching deadline of September 2014 for the DCPC.

HGV drivers need to have completed their 35 hours of training and have their DQC issued and received by 9 September 2014 to remain compliant.

Each new five-year period will begin from the expiry date of the driver's current DCPC qualification. Ultimately, it is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that their training is up to date and completed. Any competent operator would closely monitor their drivers to make sure that their DCPC is kept on track. To ignore the DCPC leaves a huge business risk, as an operator would struggle to function if a number of its drivers had to come off the road for failure to complete their DCPC in good time.

Course content

There is no requirement setting out what courses drivers must complete to achieve their 35 hours of periodic training. Technically, drivers could do the same seven-hour drivers’ course each year throughout the five-year period. However, drivers would not gain the benefit of a broad depth of experience from training if they simply attended a course to “go through the motions”.

Operators that take an active role in putting their drivers through the DCPC have a real opportunity to develop their staff and improve compliance and safety by choosing interesting and relevant courses. It is not only important to find varied and job-specific content through the DCPC courses, but also to ensure the quality of the provider. JAUPT (the Joint Approvals Unit for Periodic Training) has specific responsibilities to:

  • approve training centres to deliver periodic training

  • approve courses as complying with the requirements for periodic training

  • issue unique numbers for each training centre and course

  • manage the quality assurance process for training centres and courses to ensure that standards and approval criteria are upheld.

However, concerns remain over the quality of some courses on the market, particularly in relation to the most popular course subject — drivers’ hours.

It is imperative that the quality of the information being given to drivers is reviewed, as there can be devastating consequences where drivers have been trained incorrectly on what is and is not compliant driving. For example, a driver or a number of drivers misunderstanding drivers’ hours and driving over their hours could lead to multiple prosecutions, Traffic Commissioner driver conduct hearings and even Public Inquiries.

There is incorrect content available on the internet which training providers can and sometimes do then rely on for the basis of their courses. For example, on a well-known UK-based site, the following information is provided: “Compensatory [Weekly Rest] hours should be added to a rest period of at least 8 hours.” Clearly, this should read “… at least 9 hours and also could be added to a Regular or Reduced Weekly Rest period”.

Example 3

Misinformation in relation to the Working Time/Road Transport Directive is widespread. For example, available on a website and picked up and used by some training providers is the following information:

“If you continue to work up until you accumulate nine hours of WTD then you must take a further 15-minute break. You can take this additional break at any time throughout the day once your duty has begun, and it may also be included on the end of another break, but it must be no later than after nine hours of total WTD.

This implies that the 45 minutes of “Qualifying” breaks required for a period of aggregated working time over nine hours must be taken before the nine hours of working time has been accrued, which is incorrect.

Basic errors in training have been heard of recently, including one national haulier operating under EC 561/2006 (the Goods Vehicle element) that paid for an expensive DCPC training course only to be delivered the PSV course. The course was not even PSV hours under EC561/2006 but Domestic Regulations. Luckily this proved only to be a costly mistake in terms of time and money. Had the error not been swiftly spotted by the operator, its drivers could have been driving around completely over their hours and incurring significant penalties and prohibitions for some time.

The consequences of ignoring DCPC

The consequences of ignoring the quality of the course content being given to drivers can be damaging in itself, with criminal sanctions and Traffic Commissioner enforcement.

To completely ignore the DCPC in its entirety has similar consequences, with criminal penalties. Drivers can be fined up to £1000 for driving professionally without a Driver CPC. However, Traffic Commissioners will take an extremely dim view of an operator that has ignored the DCPC and put unqualified drivers on the road.

Unless drivers have acquired rights, they will be issued with a DQC once they pass the Driver CPC initial qualification tests. Drivers with acquired rights are still able to use their existing driving licence as proof of their DCPC until the deadline in September 2014. By September, the periodic training should have been completed and a DQC received. Drivers must always carry evidence of their DCPC status while driving professionally. Penalties could follow for any driver found driving without carrying their DQC.

Concluding comments

The best advice for drivers and operators is to ensure that drivers get proper, quality training. The richer the material given to drivers in their DCPC, the better they will become and the more compliant their employer will ultimately be.

The most common area for drivers to get things wrong through poor training is drivers’ hours, and yet this is one of the most crucial areas for operators to get things right! Therefore, drivers must seek to know the law inside out and, if in doubt, speak to the transport manager (who is ultimately responsible). A fail safe route to check on the quality of information being given to drivers is to simply stick to the current VOSA/DVSA guidelines.