Last reviewed 19 October 2012

The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) has published a new framework setting out the competences expected of lorry drivers, and defining the skills, knowledge and understanding required to drive large vehicles safely and responsibly. Paul Clarke looks at it in detail.

Developed in co-operation with the haulage industry, Safe and Responsible Driving (Category C) Standard™ addresses specific issues such as the use of tachographs and the dangers of continuous driving. It should form the basis of training that a lorry driver receives; the training industry is being encouraged to create courses that address these specific issues. This will apply both to drivers required to complete professional training (the Driver CPC) and to training provided for those who do not drive for a living (someone who takes out a commercial vehicle on occasions, but for whom driving is not their main occupation).

The Standard assumes that any person wishing to drive vehicles in this category has demonstrated full competence against Roles 1–4 of the DSA National Driving Standard (Category B) and that they hold a current full category B driving licence.

It also assumes that they have demonstrated competence against Role 5 of the DSA National Driving Standard (Category B). This means they have the skills, knowledge and understanding needed to demonstrate that they have maintained and continued to improve their driving competence since they gained their full category B driving licence.

The document is aimed at all category C drivers and is intended as an overview. If you are employed by a haulage operator, the DSA stresses, you should have received full training and briefing in all of the elements covered in the Standard. “If you are in any doubt about any of the elements covered, you should speak to your employer for further training or guidance,” it suggests.

Scope of the Standard

The Standard applies to driving all types of vehicle covered by category C, which means:

  • C: vehicles over 3500kg, with a trailer up to 750kg

  • C1: vehicles weighing between 3500kg and 7500kg, with or without a trailer (weighing no more than 750kg)

  • C1+E: as category C1 but with a trailer weighing more than 750kg. The total weight of the vehicle and the trailer together cannot weigh more than 12,000kg. The weight of the trailer, when fully loaded, cannot weigh more than the unladen weight of the vehicle

  • C+E: as category C but with a trailer over 750kg.

It concerns both manual and automatic vehicles, driven on any class of road, at any time and in any weather conditions. This could be with passengers (subject to legal requirements and the manufacturer’s specification), with any load (subject to similar requirements and specifications) and whether for private use or for professional purposes (subject to relevant legislation).

The roles

Five specific roles are covered in detail.

Role 1: prepare vehicle and its occupants for a journey

This includes the driver ensuring that he or she is fit to drive by being aware of, for example, the laws concerning controlled substances and alcohol, and the possible effect of over-the-counter medicines. It also mentions that “emotional states such as anger, grief, sadness and joy can impair your ability to drive safely”.

Role 1 also calls on the driver to control the risks associated with carrying passengers, loads and animals and to know how to adjust the vehicle and driving behaviour to allow for extra weight and changed weight distribution. This section includes what to consider when loading the vehicle and the best way to secure different loads.

Other elements covered by Role 1 include:

  • making routine checks of vehicle roadworthiness

  • checking the vehicle is fit for the journey

  • making sure vehicle documentation meets legal requirements

  • knowing how to operate tachograph equipment

  • planning a journey taking into account factors such as road, weather and traffic conditions and the vehicle being used.

Role 2: guide and control the vehicle

This begins with carrying out pre-start checks and starting the vehicle and then looks at how to move off safely and smoothly, having carried out all-round visual checks, including blind spots. It also concerns how to decelerate and to bring the vehicle to a stop safely, how to park safely and responsibly and how to position the vehicle in relation to the trailer ready for coupling and uncoupling.

This section of the Standard emphasises that drivers must be able to monitor and respond to information from instrumentation, driving aids and the environment, to use the accelerator smoothly to achieve and maintain an appropriate speed, and to change gear smoothly and in good time. It also covers safe control of the steering wheel and includes details with regard to manoeuvring the vehicle (including dealing with skids and towing a trailer).

Role 3: use the road in accordance with the Highway Code

This begins with advice on negotiating the road correctly, including maintaining a suitable position and knowing where you may and may not overtake. It goes on to examine specific hazards such as bends, all types of junctions, including roundabouts, and all types of crossings, and then looks at driving on motorways and dual carriageways.

Role 3 concludes with consideration of compliance with signals, signs and road markings with particular reference to height, width and weight restrictions in relation to the vehicle being driven.

Role 4: drive safely and responsibly in the traffic system

The need to communicate intentions to, and co-operate with, other road users is central to this role, which also covers the need to identify and respond to hazards and the importance of being able to drive defensively (“create and maintain a safe driving space”). It reminds drivers of the need to follow the principles of ecologically responsible driving (Eco-safe), using aids such as cruise control and removing extra load from the vehicle when not needed.

It concludes with the action needed if your vehicle breaks down and the appropriate action when involved in, or witness to, a collision.

Role 5: review and adjust driving behaviour over lifetime

This section requires the driver to learn from experience and to demonstrate that “you have continued to develop and update your driving skills and have continued to improve your ability to drive since you took your driving test”.

Drivers are expected to keep up to date with changes, whether to vehicle technologies, legislation or the documentation required to use a vehicle on the road. They should be able to demonstrate that their understanding of the law on the use of a vehicle on public roads is current and, of course, must meet the requirements of Driver CPC legislation where it applies.

Why new standards?

DSA Chief Executive Rosemary Thew said: “The haulage industry is a vital part of Britain’s economy and has an important role to play in keeping our roads among the safest in the world.”

She explained that the publication of the Standard will help to ensure that all lorry drivers acquire the right skills, knowledge and attitude to use the roads safely and responsibly, as well as contributing to cutting the human and financial cost of road accidents.

Concluding points

Although not compulsory, trainers and drivers are being encouraged to pay careful attention to this new publication.

The document is accompanied by a similar Standard that applies to coach and bus drivers.