Numbers of HGV, bus and coach drivers could be boosted through proposed reforms to driver training rules, further supporting the UK’s vital supply chain and economic growth.
Some of the proposed changes aim to help make it more affordable and more efficient for drivers to renew their qualifications or return to the industry.
The new consultation launched today (Thursday 2 March) proposes reforms to the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (DCPC), a professional qualification originally introduced by the EU that lorry, bus, coach, and minibus drivers are required to hold in addition to their driving licence.
With the UK’s newfound freedoms having left the EU, the Government is exploring how to best improve DCPC to increase flexibility and choice for drivers to help safeguard road safety, and support the industry in retaining and recruiting staff.
The key changes include offering in parallel to the existing lengthy training format, which will be reformed, more flexibility with e-learning and a shorter “new periodic test” which could save employees time and companies up to £460 per test in early estimates.
Reforms to training as well as the new cheaper and shorter periodic test will offer an accelerated route for former drivers to return to the sector more easily.
DCPC is currently obtained by passing four tests and renewed by completing 35 hours of training every 5 years, which can cost up to £500 for each individual training.
While supportive of DCPC in principle, the industry has raised concerns that in its current form the qualification is making it more difficult to retain and attract drivers to the sector, with high costs, poor flexibility and extended length of training among the main barriers to progress.
Safety is at the heart of the proposals, as the new periodic test will be delivered by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and will continue to meet existing training standards to ensure that UK’s roads remain among the safest in Europe.
The consultation follows the Government’s 33 measures to support the haulage sector which has seen the HGV driver shortage stabilise.
Road Haulage Association Managing Director, Richard Smith, said: “We welcome the news that DfT is consulting on proposed DCPC reform to offer more choice and flexibility for drivers. This is a key priority for us as we continue to look for ways to tackle skills shortages in the transport sector. We look forward to reflecting our members’ views in the weeks ahead.”
If implemented, reforms will establish a National DCPC for use in Great Britain and potentially Northern Ireland. The existing regime, the International DCPC, will remain for travel to, from or within the EU and will continue to be recognised for journeys within the UK.
The Government’s 33 actions to support Britain’s haulage sector include making 11,000 HGV driver training places available through Skills Bootcamps, boosting the number of HGV driver tests, and launching our Future of Freight plan to encourage millions of people to kickstart an exciting career in logistics.
As a result, new HGV drivers are taking and passing their driving test in record numbers. Between April and September 2022, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) carried out 59,513 HGV tests – 59% more than the corresponding period in 2019 before the pandemic.
Graham Vidler, Chief Executive of the Confederation of Passenger Transport, said: “We welcome the Department of Transport listening to bus and coach operators’ calls for a package of policies to improve driver recruitment and retention. The consultation to simplify the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence renewal process is a positive step and we will work with CPT members to develop our response.”