How is the CPC likely to continue to impact on the transport industry?

How is the CPC likely to continue to impact on the transport industry?

Managing Director | 3T Group

The passing of the five year deadline for the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) in September raises some important questions in the transport industry – most significantly, how will the legislation continue to affect the industry and those who work within it?

For those not in the know, the driver CPC is a qualification for lorry, bus and coach drivers across Europe, introduced with the aim of creating a higher degree of professionalism within the industry.  Under legislation introduced in 2009, all professional drivers must pass a series of theoretical and practical tests, followed by 35 hours of periodic training every five years to maintain their CPC.  Driving without a Driver Qualification Card (DQC) can result in a £50 on-the-spot fine with a maximum £1,000 penalty for repeat offences.  Traffic commissioners will also have the option to suspend both driver and operator licences in extreme cases.

The implications

The qualification has been introduced to help improve road safety and to maintain high standards of driving which can only be a laudable aim.  Supporters also see it as an important external validation, conferring more status on the profession. However, it was not well received by everyone in the freight industry, with some fearing that it could also have a negative impact.

DVSA estimates that there are between 425,000 and 675,000 professional drivers in the UK, and whilst 664,000 drivers have completed the required training, inevitably there are still some who have yet to comply, presenting a worst case scenario of an approximate 2% reduction in available drivers.  It is also worth noting that this is the inaugural driver CPC deadline; the further 35 hours training over the course of the next five years is likely to incur more fallout.

Teaching your grandmother to suck eggs

The highest proportion of UK LGV drivers are in the 45-59 age bracket and many have been in the job for over 30 years. Understandably, some of these experienced professionals feel insulted by being forced to train for a role they have performed all of their adult lives.  The increasing administrative work for a driver and the development of IT systems is also diminishing the job’s appeal, resulting in an increase in the number of people leaving the profession.  In fact, figures suggest that one driver currently joins the industry for every five that leave.

So, with a LGV driver shortage of around 35,000, the industry is not well placed to lose disillusioned and experienced veterans.  There are very few younger people joining the industry, partly due to the high premiums charged by insurance companies for young drivers, but also due to the high cost of training for an LGV licence and the lack of industry and government support.

The agency issue

More and more drivers are leaving full time positions and joining agencies who promise high wages and a job that fulfils their personal work preferences; for example, some drivers may only want to work a three day week or weekends to fit in with their partner/spouse.  The rise in agency drivers is countered by the shortage it creates as bigger organisations begin to block book agency drivers weeks in advance, leaving fewer available for medium sized and smaller organisations. The end result is higher agency costs which many companies may struggle to sustain.

One short term solution is to use foreign drivers, but there aren’t enough of them to compensate for the shortfall.  They also bring a new set of issues, such as language barriers and accommodation, whilst less of their income is fed back into the UK economy, creating a whole series of other issues.  Ultimately, the industry needs to attract new talent for a long term solution.

Creating a drivers’ market

All of this causes a ‘drivers’ market’ with drivers leaving companies they have worked with for years for a significant pay increase, or more flexibility and/or less hours for the same (or more) pay.  Inevitably, rates of pay will go up, which means that transport rates will increase with demand and the impact of reduced availability.  This will have a ripple effect through the UK economy, raising the cost of manufacturing – and ultimately the cost to the consumer, unless we can find efficiencies in other areas.

Finding solutions

As transport management experts, we have geared up for the impact of the issues that are affecting our carrier partners. Availability is coming under increased pressure, so we have put in place corrective processes to protect the service to clients.  Having a flexible carrier network enables us to work with more carriers and, more importantly, help carriers to improve efficiency through reduced empty running.  Integrating our systems with the carrier’s helps reduce the increasing administration burden and can also enhance their standard service offering.

Although the introduction of the CPC may cause some short term issues, raising levels of professionalism within the UK and European transport field is a positive move.  As an industry we need solutions to the short term pain, whilst employers and the government need to do more to ensure that it is an attractive option for future employees.


About the author

Tim Fawkes is the Managing Director of the 3T Group and has over 20 years of experience in the logistics industry, working for TDG and Ryder prior to becoming a founding member of 3T Logistics, a transport management company helping organisations reduce their transport costs and increase control of their supply chain.