Driver Training

Mark Magee, the Driving Standards Agency’s acting director for regulation, standards and development, answers MT's questions on Driver CPC.

Many operators and drivers are cynical about the Driver CPC, regarding it as an expensive waste of time. I believe that one reason for this is the perception - right or wrong – that some people are still getting away with delivering low quality, non-compliant training.

What enforcement effort is the DSA now applying to Jaupt approved centres to ensure all Driver CPC training complies with the minimum standard and is the full seven hours? Has the DfT released more funds to DSA to allow it to put more resources into enforcement?

First of all, I don’t agree that Driver CPC is viewed so negatively across the industry. We’ve had a lot of positive feedback from industry stakeholders and associations, as well as from individual operators and drivers. The feedback shows that increasing numbers of operators are coming on board with Driver CPC and that many feel the training is already leading to efficiency savings as well as improving safety.

We’re encouraged by the numbers of drivers already committed to undertaking periodic training, but with just one and two years to go for the PCV and LGV industries respectively, there’s no room for complacency.

We’re focused on making sure that there is good quality training available and we do this through our extensive programme of audits. These can be announced, unannounced, or audits where we arrive at the beginning and at the end of the day to check training has taken place. We also compare our findings with records of training on our recording and evidencing system.

We target audits based on complaints and on other intelligence. Funding from DfT enables us to sustain our audit and follow-up activities.

Will every approved centre be visited by a DSA inspector within the five year approval period?

Yes, in fact in response to industry concerns, all centres seeking approval now receive an audit within their first year.

Will these be surprise or announced visits?

Whilst centre audits are announced, course audits can be announced or unannounced – depending on what the audit is trying to establish.

Will the DSA undertake mystery shopping style inspections?

No, because we don’t have the legal right to carry those out. However, all the information we receive feeds into our risk rating system. This might lead to immediate action or be kept on record for consideration during the next audit, depending upon the nature and seriousness of the information.

Will the DSA ever have enough resources to carry out a pre-approval inspection of training centres, or will it always be a paper-based approval system?

The approvals process needs to be robust but proportionate. There is no evidence to suggest that the current desk-based process, which is both quicker and less burdensome, is not effective. 

We always carry out an audit within the first year of a centre’s approval.

Please can you explain the risk rating system for targeting inspections on Driver CPC centres, as we know of a very well-established reputable training centre which has already been inspected three times, which seems to fly in the face of a risk-based system.

We view compliance management and quality assurance as fundamental to the integrity of Driver CPC.

Audit visits are conducted in response to a robust risk rating system.

The risk rating is affected by a number of factors including findings and outcome of previous audits, analysis of upload data to the DSA recording and evidencing system, information received via, and the volume of courses a centre is delivering. If a larger provider is delivering a course frequently we need to check that it is being delivered consistently across centres and by different trainers.

Does the DSA believe that procedures for auditing consortia are adequate? Shouldn’t each member of a consortium be audited individually by Jaupt/DSA rather than relying on the lead member?

Yes we do believe they are adequate and we regularly review and discuss procedures with our stakeholder group which includes representatives from consortia.

Although only the lead member of the consortium pays the fee, we can and do audit any one of the courses being delivered within that consortium and any actions that then have to be taken relate to the consortium as a whole.

Will the Driver CPC rules be amended to specify minimum qualifications for instructors delivering Driver CPC training?

No and this would be ‘gold plating’ as the legislation does not specify that trainers must have a mandatory qualification. Trainers are required to have a sound knowledge of their subject area and teaching methods and, for practical driving courses, to have relevant driving experience. Training centres must ensure, at all times, that trainers are competent to deliver the relevant courses.

However, alongside this, I believe the sector skills councils are working on a feasibility study to see if some kind of voluntary, industry recognised qualification can be developed for trainers.

Could a test be made mandatory for drivers at the end of the training to check their understanding or will mere attendance at an approved course always be enough to obtain a Driver CPC?

No, a test isn’t specified within the legislation so would be ‘gold plating’. However, there is nothing to prevent a training centre from offering some form of post-course evaluation and providing feedback to drivers. The requirement is that a driver must complete 35 hours of periodic training in order to obtain a Driver CPC.

Does the legislation allow online training or must it always be face to face?

Approved periodic training is contact time with a trainer present. The trainer may want to include some time working online as part of the training but they must be present to facilitate that.

Is the DSA relying on complaints to identify sub-standard training?

If so isn’t this naïve, as it is in no driver’s interests to report a course that finished early provided they get the seven hours logged to their training record?

No, as previously mentioned, we also have an extensive audit programme.

Why is there no anonymous tip-off hotline like Vosa have for people to report cowboy operators so concerned drivers can just pick up the phone and report a bad training course?

As part of the government’s wider digital by default agenda we provide an email address to which people can report any concerns about training providers.

This system is working well and allows us to investigate effectively. We’re committed to protecting people’s anonymity.

How many complaints have been made about Driver CPC training and what have been the outcomes?

To date, since September 2008 when periodic training began there have been 63 complaints regarding approved periodic training courses or the centres delivering them.

One centre has had its approval withdrawn. Another centre ceased to trade following a police investigation after referral by DSA.

We have cancelled training where a training centre was found to have uploaded training on an incorrect date – as the training had been delivered outside of their approval period.

We have also removed training hours as a result of audits finding short delivery of courses (less than 7 hours).

How many drivers have had their training hours removed from the DSA database as a result?

Thirt eight drivers have had training hours removed from the system and 3 Driver Qualifications Cards (DQC)’s were cancelled as a result of an investigation following a complaint about a trainer.

In addition, five drivers have had training hours removed and one DQC cancelled as a result of an unsatisfactory audit on a training centre.

Some EU countries have set the deadline to obtain Driver CPC for 2016 rather than 2014 – could the UK extend the deadline to 2016 if it became clear that 25% to 30% of professional drivers will not be qualified by 2014?

We do not expect the deadline to be extended. The Directive offered flexibility to member states on the period in which ‘acquired rights’ drivers could gain their Driver CPC (through completing 35 hours periodic training). The Directive said that the period should be of no less than three years and no longer than seven years from the date that new drivers were required to obtain Driver CPC via the initial qualification. The UK opted for a 5 year period.

Ministers have clearly indicated that Driver CPC will be enforced. Acquired rights LGV drivers will have had five years by 2014 in which to complete 35 hours of training, and it is difficult to imagine a scenario where drivers who’ve sought to be compliant won’t have completed their training by September 2014. If there are drivers out there who are determined not to comply, the deadline date is largely irrelevant for them. Extending the deadline would be offering more favourable terms to those that haven’t complied compared to those who are acting responsibly and completing their training.

Has the EU clarified the exemptions from the requirement to obtain Driver CPC, which a leading transport lawyer has described a ‘minefield’? Or will exemptions have to be tested one by one in court when Vosa starts prosecuting drivers?

The UK and other EU member states are working with the EU Commission to obtain greater clarity on the scope of the Directive and on the interpretation of the exemptions from Driver CPC. Member states have some flexibility subject to respecting the overarching aims of the Directive. However, these are intended to be of a limited nature and cannot be applied as class exemptions.

DSA has consistently sought to minimise the burden imposed by the Directive and to exploit the opportunities it provides to the benefit of stakeholders, such as new drivers being able to obtain a vocational driving licence and Driver CPC initial qualification through a modular process that avoids duplication.

As part of the Red Tape Challenge, DSA is exploring the possibility of further minimising the burdens imposed by the Directive.  We are reviewing our existing guidance on its scope and the interpretation of the exemptions with the potential that a clearer statement of how they apply may enable wider use of the exemptions.

We will seek to publish our revised guidance at the earliest opportunity. 

What is the DSA doing to ensure new drivers who have taken an LGV licence since September 2009 are aware they need the Initial Driver CPC to drive professionally?

DSA has worked closely with stakeholders to promote Driver CPC and raise awareness within the industry.

The message is promoted throughout the licence acquisition process. This includes licence application forms, telephone and online test booking services, You Tube videos for learner drivers, official learning materials and posters in test centres.

This is all in addition to information that drivers can find online through DirectGov, Business Link and careers and sector skills websites, plus the information a learner will receive from their trainer.

What will happen to an operator who employs a driver who acquired their licence since 2009 but has not passed Module 4 to obtain their DQC?

Where someone drives in circumstances where a Driver CPC is required and they don’t hold one, they are committing an offence. Anyone causing or permitting them to do so (such as an employer) is also committing an offence.

If a driver hasn’t successfully completed all four modules they do not hold a Driver CPC and therefore cannot drive professionally. The senior traffic commissioner has already stated that traffic commissioners will take action against operators who employ drivers without a Driver CPC where one is required.  

What is the agreement between DSA and Vosa in terms of roadside enforcement of Initial Driver CPC? It appears that Vosa is currently merely advising drivers that they should have a Driver CPC and anecdotal evidence suggests that very few VOSA inspectors are clear on who should and should not already have a Driver CPC.

Is this what the DSA would expect to see or should drivers - and their employers – who are driving illegally without a DQC be prosecuted to raise awareness of the law?

We work closely with VOSA work to ensure that Driver CPC is enforced effectively. All VOSA front line operational staff receive training to ensure they have the correct policy information. They actively check the Driver CPC status of drivers stopped at routine roadside checks and inform them of the requirements of Driver CPC.

VOSA officers can issue a fixed penalty notice to drivers who fail to produce a valid DQC. The matter may also be referred to the local traffic commissioner who will then call the driver to appear before them at a driver conduct hearing. Each case will be dealt with on its own merits but the starting point for the commissioner will be to consider suspending the driver’s vocational entitlement until they’ve completed their training.

In addition, the operator who employs the driver will be asked to provide a full explanation to the traffic commissioner of why their driver(s) haven’t completed the training by the due date. Again, each case will be looked at individually, but it’s likely that strong regulatory action will be taken by the traffic commissioner such as the removal of an operator’s ‘O’ licence and/or prosecution.

How many Polish drivers have converted their licences to UK licences and obtained a Driver CPC here? I have heard that it is much cheaper to get Driver CPC here than in Poland so a lot of drivers have come here for “Driver CPC tourism”.

Poland don’t issue a Driver Qualification Card (DQC), they indicate CPC status by a code 95 on their driving licence once a driver has completed their 35 hours training. The number of Polish drivers who have exchanged for a UK licence and had a code 95 on their Polish licence, and subsequently had a DQC issued by DSA, was 305 at the end of July. Some of these will have been drivers with acquired rights who have completed their 35 hours training, some will have gained the initial qualification in Poland.

However to undertake periodic training in the UK, a driver with a Community   licence isn’t required to exchange it for a GB/NI licence. They only have to be resident here or working here. And it works both ways. Some time ago a Polish driver living and working in the UK asked if he could undertake periodic training in Poland when he returned there on holiday. He was told that he would not meet the requirements of the Directive in that he would be neither resident nor working in Poland at the time, therefore we wouldn’t recognise it.