Department for Transport (DfT) proposals to make eco-driving training a mandatory part of Driver CPC training have been roundly rejected by the Freight Transport Association (FTA). In its response to the DfT’s consultation paper, the leading trade body recommended that although greater uptake of eco-driver training must be encouraged, the mandatory route proposed is unnecessary and could even become counter intuitive.
James Firth, FTA’s Head of Road Freight and Enforcement Policy, said:
"Eco-driver training can yield results, yes, but it is by no means a ‘silver bullet’ solution; its effects diminish steeply unless undertaken alongside proper fleet and driver management. Indeed, most FTA members already invest in eco-driver training, but only in this context.
"Further, making it mandatory could easily reduce it to a box-ticking exercise, replacing the far more effective way it is currently employed as an integral part of ongoing fleet fuel management. The failure of the Low Emission Zone proves that high levels of compliance don’t necessarily translate into success."
FTA has criticised the integrity of the cost benefit analysis used by the DfT to justify its proposals. The consultation also failed to account for those experienced drivers that have already received eco-training.
"This proposal has been built on pretty shaky grounds and it seems to ignore the fact that industry has made huge in-roads into mitigating its carbon footprint already.
"Given that most FTA members have been eco-training their drivers for many years and that there is such a clear link between driving environmentally and reducing transport costs, the need to make eco-driver training mandatory is highly questionable.
"Industry already agreed in good faith to embrace a fully flexible implementation of the Driver CPC. Less than 12 months in and the DfT is moving the goalposts. At this rate, by the end of the first cycle of periodic training the whole 35 hours will be prescribed."
The transport sector’s will to improve its environmental performance is linked to various powerful forces: increasingly high customer service levels, a more competitive marketplace, the importance of corporate social responsibility and the desire to reduce transport costs.
"Industry wants to achieve greater environmental performance, but just as the long-term business benefits of training provide a powerful incentive, the key barrier is the initial cost.
"Above inflation fuel duty rises eat into the already modest profit margins of most commercial vehicle operators, meaning they have less cash available to invest in measures which could bring real improvements in carbon emissions in terms of technology and training."