Monday, December 16, 2013

Concerns for Road Haulage Operators as DCPC D Day Draws Closer

What is the True Position Regarding How Many Drivers Will Be Legal Come September?
Shipping News Feature

UK – With so many imponderables remaining over the mandatory regulations on the road haulage driver Certificates of Professional Competence (DCPC), it seems some questions may go right to the wire when next September’s ruling comes into effect. Opinions are divided as to the numbers of drivers who will have fulfilled their legal obligations in time to meet the deadline. Any haulier carrying freight for reward on a vehicle of 7.5 tonnes or over needs to have completed DCPC training and be carrying a driver qualification card by the date set.

Those unsure as to exactly what is required can check what they need on the appropriate, easy to follow, government website, and with up to £1,000 fines resting on each transgression, only a fool will try and avoid the law when it comes into force. Enquiries made by the Handy Shipping Guide reveal vastly differing opinions and actions amongst road haulage operators and their staff. Whereas the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) believes that drivers are generally complying with the legal requirements we have heard from several road carriers who are convinced that enforcement of the rules will be put back another year or so.

This looks increasingly like a forlorn hope, PSV drivers have regularly picked up fines for transgressions, between April and October 2013, a period mostly before the deadline for PSV drivers with acquired rights had passed, 35 fixed penalties were issued for Driver CPC offences and since then there has apparently been a steady stream of offenders with at least one operator collecting the top fine of £1,000 per offence. The Freight Transport Association’s James Firth, Head of the FTA’s Road Freight and Enforcement Policy said:

“If you’re still thinking the Driver CPC might go away, think again. The message is clear, the 10 September 2014 deadline will happen, VOSA is already enforcing it, and failure to comply could see you landed with a £1,000 fine and your licence suspended. What the DVSA is telling us suggests that anyone thinking of taking the risk will be pretty much on their own out there.

“We still hear suggestions that some HGV drivers and operators are waiting to see if action is being taken against PSV drivers who are not complying with the requirements of Driver CPC. If you haven’t heard anything, it’s probably because most people are complying. DVSA has told us that at the roadside the general picture is one of compliance.”

DVSA insist that no specific enforcement campaigns concerning checks on Driver CPC’s are being undertaken, but every single driver stopped is checked to see if they are satisfying the training requirements. In 2011/12 VOSA stopped over 110,000 drivers to check their compliance with drivers’ hours rules and in the future these checks by the newly merged Agency will include compliance with Driver CPC, as they have done for some time.

During our own investigations we found several older drivers who would simply rather retire than face thirty five hours in the classroom, meaning that come September, operators might need to consider replacing staff. This could produce a shortage of qualified drivers, with reliable agency drivers who have invested in training able to charge a premium and still be in short supply.

The question then arose as to whether by refusing training a driver was effectively dismissing himself leaving the employer in a position where he would need to replace the experienced man with a CPC holding new recruit (who would need to be employed well before the September deadline to train up for the role). Despite asking both ACAS and an experienced consultant to a respected firm of road transport lawyers whether the operator was entitled to dismiss the existing driver early for refusing to train as the law demands, answers came there none.