The European Commission held a stakeholder conference in Brussels last week to discuss the future of Driver CPC; FTA’s James Firth was there to deliver members' points of view.
The conference followed a Commission consultation which ran across the summer addressing a range of issues surrounding the Directive, including the scope, harmonisation of content, and mutual recognition of qualifications between member states. As the consultants presented the findings of the survey one fact suddenly struck a number of delegates, particularly those representing bodies in the UK: of the almost 400 responses received to the consultation, over half were from the UK, and 10 member states made no representations at all.
The conference looked at four key areas: relevance and scope, minimum age, structure of training, and quality assurance. All the speakers were academics – which was a little disappointing since it meant there was no operator perspective except from delegates on the floor. The consultation had suggested that the scope and exemptions for Driver CPC should match those of EU drivers’ hours – a position that FTA members had opposed because of concern it would put too many drivers out of scope to make the scheme worthwhile, and because it would cause difficulties for a driver wanting to move from a role on domestic hours to one on EU rules (35 hours in one hit?). In the end the conference thought the existing scope was appropriate although there is clearly interest from the Commission in including vans in some way.
Throughout the morning sessions, delegates had tried, unsuccessfully, to move discussions on to the structure and content of the training. So at last when the afternoon session started there was plenty to be said. The session presentation emphasised the importance of a system which focuses on learning outcomes rather than the existing time-led requirement. This would therefore allow informal, self-led learning to be taken into account; a system of credits was also proposed. Yes, it would require some sort of assessment to be made, but novel methods for assessing competence would have to be developed (none were proposed). Still there seems to be wide concern about the appropriateness of a pass/fail test determining whether an individual drivers’ career should come to an end. Throughout the consultation process FTA has been pressing the importance of retaining flexibility to allow industry to identify training needs, not politicians. So at this point FTA emphasised the dangers of prescribing mandatory modules – often ‘one size fits all’ becomes one size fits no one very well – guarded against moves to prevent the repeating of modules and argued against suggestions that ADR training should be excluded from Driver CPC.
The final session looked at mutual recognition of training and asked the question: “is this a big problem, or a big problem for a few drivers?” Certainly in areas that are near a border (such as Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland) or in the ‘transit states’ such as Austria it is but, as the conference discussed, if the solution was an expensive, integrated database then that may not be a cost-effective.
The public consultation goes quiet now; thoughts will be developed by the Commission between the groups known as the social partners – representative bodies for the unions and the employers. In the employers’ body – the International Road Transport Union (IRU) – FTA has a strong voice and will continue to represent FTA members’ views as discussions continue. But it will be early 2015 before we start to see any proposals from the Commission on how the Directive might change.