Monday, December 18, 2017

Objections to Weakening HGV Driver CPC Qualifications Throughout Europe

Safety Outfit Condemns EU Proposals and Looks for More Regulation for Vans
Shipping News Feature
EUROPE – The European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) which lobbies the European Commission, the European Parliament, and Member States on transport safety matters, has been critical in the past couple of weeks over attempts by MEPs to weaken professional driver training rules. Under existing regulations professional drivers must update their qualifications every five years. ETSC Says that the exemption proposed by the European Parliament's Transport Committee last month could lead to workers getting behind the wheel of lorries or buses even if they haven’t driven such a vehicle for years, or updated their CPC qualifications to reflect new technologies, changed road rules or modern safety standards for HGVs.

Voting on a report in response to a proposal from the European Commission to revise the ‘Driver Certificate of Professional Competence’ (CPC) rules last month, the committee included an amendment that would exempt drivers from the requirements for additional initial and periodic training as long as they stay within a 100 kilometre radius of their base. The amendment says the exemption should only apply to workers whose ‘principal activity’ is not driving, for example a mechanic returning an HGV to a client following a safety test.

The ETSC fears however that this vague definition is open to abuse and could be a very significant loophole posing a major challenge to enforcement authorities, possibly leading to potentially thousands of lorries and buses being driven for commercial purposes by workers lacking experience and full professional training.

ETSC has long advocated that the CPC rules be extended to cover van drivers particularly as although 4,000 people die each year in the EU in collisions involving HGVs, a similar number die in collisions involving vans. It is thought the Commission proposed the move as a way of aiding small businesses keep costs down, however ETSC says, a European Commission impact assessment that accompanied the legal proposals warned that reducing the scope of the requirements would be counterproductive for road safety. Antonio Avenoso, executive director of ETSC said:

“With road deaths in Europe stagnating and increased public concern about large vehicles operating in urban areas, the transport committee is adding insult to injury by potentially letting thousands of drivers escape training that can save lives. People who haven’t driven large vehicles for decades could potentially get behind the wheel of a coach carrying children or a heavy lorry driving through urban areas. It is incredibly important that member states remove this dangerous exemption and ensure that changes to driver training rules lead to improvements in road safety, not a weakening.”

The opinion was supported by TISPOL, the European Traffic Police Network, whose General Secretary, Ruth Purdie, said:

“We are concerned that these proposed changes could lead to great difficulties for enforcement. Follow-up checks by police to gather information on how much time an employee spent driving as part of his or her job would be a significant administrative burden that could lead to reduced enforcement of other essential road safety issues. This is a big step backwards for road safety and we urge member states to reject this proposed change.”

The matter will now go before the EU member states, the Parliament and the European Commission to be decided behind closed doors before seeking approval from the full Parliament and transport ministers of the 28 EU member states. In what ETSC views as a positive development, the transport committee introduced several revisions to require the inclusion of training on danger recognition, coping with stress and mitigating distraction. But ETSC fears these safety gains could be outweighed by the new exemption covering short distances.

Again last month the organisation commented on what it calls worrying attitudes in ‘a number of national surveys across Europe’ into the use of mobile devices while driving. Individual nations found a variety in the number of people who admitted to using their phone almost every time they get behind the wheel. In the Czech Republic the number was 36%, Spain and Ireland 25% whilst in Germany around 50% said they used a phone at least ‘occasionally’.

The effect of this behaviour is clear in the accident reports of death and injury, although often a percentage remain hidden as opposed to drink and drugs impairment where testing confirms the figures. Ireland says distraction in general is a factor in 20-30% of collisions whilst France says 9% of fatal collisions occur due to distracted mobile phone use and the Germans only say that they calculate at any given moment an average of 7% of German drivers are distracted while driving.

Whilst most of the EU countries pussy foot around increased penalties for such behaviour soon to leave Britain has recently doubled the penalties for distracted driving.