Commercial drivers must undertake 35 hours of CPC training every 5 years. The average cost to drivers who’s employer will not fund them is around £400. They have to take the course in their own time. The purpose of CPC is to make our roads safer for all users and was an EU initiative.
Driving an HGV requires us to be in possession of our driving licence, tachograph and CPC cards to prove we have undergone all the required training and are working according to the law. Perhaps for this reason the 35 hours of ongoing periodic CPC training seems to focus on the legal side of commercial driving.
HGV drivers find periodic CPC training a very emotive subject and it is fair to say most would like to see it scrapped. They view the CPC as a very expensive waste of time. At least in the present format. After all, the periodic course is the same as the initial training course and teaches nothing new. The only difference is that most drivers have had a lot of experience actually doing the job. An expensive, time consuming exercise in ‘teaching Grannies to suck eggs’.
Could the course be improved? If road safety concerns are the reason for ongoing CPC training then should it not actually focus on delivering that outcome. Most commercial drivers see ongoing CPC training as a necessary evil. Periodic CPC training is simply not value for money. So how could the course be altered to provide value for money while at the same time making our roads a safer place for all road users.
One driver, Stan who has been driving HGV class 1 vehicles since leaving the army told me he thought the course should focus on first aid. Stan was quite specific, he told me good quality first aid training could save lives. Stan explains ‘‘I was first on the scene of a nasty accident just 2 years ago and my first aid training let me deal with the situation I found myself in’’. Stan was working night-shift and saw the car ahead leave the road and go off into the trees. There were 3 seriously injured people and the police told Stan later that his actions saved lives that night. Stan learned his first aid in the army. I worked with Stan at Parkside Logistics in Birtley and have had similar experiences also working night shift.
I have been first on the scene of two accidents just 2 years apart. I was lucky as I only had to contend with minor injuries and shock. It was horrible, both accidents were on main roads but during the quietest time of day. I don’t know how I would have coped if anyone had been seriously injured or trapped. It was very traumatic just the same. My heart sank as I approached the vehicles expecting the worst. I still cry when I think back to it. According to H.S.E. the first people on the scene of an RTA are quite likely to be commercial drivers especially during the quite night hours.
Unite, the union, also have many misgivings about periodic CPC training. Unite has petitioned the government very strongly on this issue. Ray Sanderson, regional officer for Unite says ‘The CPC is a contentious issue as many drivers just don’t see it’s value. The sector has debated this at length and the view is that it does need a review and we have petitioned government very hard on this.’’
Ray outlined Unites demands.
To make the CPC more relevant to the job the driver does, not just generic topics.
There should be no repeating of modules.
Modules should be done on an annual basis rather than wait until the end of the 5 year period and cram all 5 in.
The CPC should move to a more accredited format rather than just participation. We don’t prescribe a test or pass and fail but some form of measurement of understanding and feedback.
The CPC is a vocational standard and as such should be conducted in working time and recorded as such. Employers should also cover the actual cost of the training. In the vast majority of Unite organised companies this is already the case.
Periodic training may also be the final straw for many drivers. I left the industry in February rather than pay for the CPC which was due. There was always the worry that I would be first on the scene of an RTA again too. The worry that I might not cope next time. First aid training not only saves lives but would go a long way to save an untrained person from later feeling guilty when they reflect back on what they should have done rather than what they actually did do. Given a choice between CPC or First Aid I know what I would choose.
By Pauline Stoker
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