By September 2014 all lorry drivers in Europe must have completed 35 hours of training in compliance with Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (DCPC) requirements. However, industry figures tell a different story and nearly half of FTA members surveyed claim that meeting their EU driver training requirements is a ‘major concern’, second only to rising fuel costs.
The DCPC was introduced over two years ago, but industry concerns – including an annual driver employment churn in some sectors of up to 20 per cent – have made industry reluctant to invest in this compulsory training.
Isobel Harding, FTA’s National Training Manager, said:
"Tough trading conditions, high fuel costs and traditionally slim profit margins mean that budgets are stretched across the industry; it is therefore understandable that uptake has been sluggish. While awareness of these training obligations is high, there is a manifest reluctance from industry to invest in training drivers when there is a good chance that by the time the deadline comes around those same drivers might be working elsewhere.
"But this approach could leave many companies twisting in the wind as the deadline approaches and demand for good value and meaningful training outstrips supply."
Latest figures from the Driving Standards Agency show that the number of qualified HGV drivers could be well short of the 35 hours mark approaching the 2014 deadline. Although there is a demonstrable improvement in the uptake of Driver CPC, particularly during 2011, there is a reducing window of opportunity which will require an accelerated uptake to meet the deadline in 2014.
Assuming that drivers should spread their training evenly by undertaking seven hours a year for five years, FTA has determined that the current shortfall stands at 46 per cent.
With 1,100 approved centres and at least 271,000 courses still to be delivered, the longer companies take to book their training the more unsustainable the pressure will be on training delivery. The likelihood is that this will translate into higher costs and harder to find seats.
"We know there is a considerable shortfall in the number of drivers on track to having completed their allotted training by the September 2014 deadline. In most cases this isn’t about lack of awareness but more about businesses weighing up their options. By playing this game, though, they could be leaving themselves exposed to a lack of choice and more cost.
"The logistics sector comprises very professional firms who completely support efforts to professionalise the industry and improve road safety and many of our members have invested heavily in ensuring that Driver CPC works for them. However, by delaying the inevitable these companies could be walking a dangerous line."
At a time when transport operators are under increasing pressure from high fuel costs and tough trading conditions, the business implications of industry not meeting its mandated driver training requirements are severe. Andy Keane, UK Motor Portfolio Manager at leading business insurer Brit Insurance, says that the ramifications for both the haulage industry and the UK economy will be far-reaching unless operators take action now and current levels of Driver CPC uptake improve. He said:
"The prospect of a major breakdown in the distribution and supply chain where shops’ shelves are left bare of basic staples such as milk and bread if truck drivers and their employers fail to comply with these regulations is a real possibility.
"On current industry estimates, there’s likely to be a rush for training towards the end of the compliance period and this will have major implications for business continuity as there’s simply not enough capacity in the system to cope.
"The current gap of five million training hours is getting worse and we predict there could be as much as a 30 per cent shortfall in the number of legally qualified drivers of heavy goods vehicles before 2014.
"Should this happen, the impact on the UK economy could be devastating, with a downturn in productivity coupled with loss of sales for many millions of businesses that depend on road haulage."