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What’s in store for Driver CPC?

RTITB's Laura Nelson looks at the current and future state of skills, training and testing in the LGV driving sector, and to consider how Driver CPC can help to retain drivers and recruit new talent into the profession.

In 2021, the UK Government announced that a major review of Driver CPC would take place with a view to improving training for LGV and PCV drivers (results yet to be published at the time of writing). However, with an ongoing shortage of drivers, it is important to look now at the current and future state of skills, training and testing in the LGV driving sector, and to consider how Driver CPC can help to retain drivers and recruit new talent into the profession.

The landscape in 2021
According to the Logistics UK Skills and Employment Report 2021, last year saw a record number of transport and logistics vacancies, with between 63 per cent and 76 per cent of employers surveyed facing recruitment difficulties due to candidates lacking the right skills. 40.2 per cent had very severe problems recruiting LGV drivers, compared to 7.3% per cent that had none.
This is no great surprise, as while urgent and essential training was able to continue during the national lockdowns, safety measures prevented most in-cab training, causing the LGV training schedule to fall behind.
To try and help retain existing staff and attract new drivers, many logistics firms responded with raised pay or cash bonus incentives, but this is only a short-term solution. It does not address the driver shortage in the long term and does not consider the vital role of training.

A 2021 whitepaper from Talent in Logistics ‘Driving Engagement in Logistics' backs this up, highlighting that only 42 per cent of LGV drivers could see themselves working for their current employer in two years’ time, pushing the urgency to retain skilled drivers, in addition to attracting new ones.

Training and testing – challenges to overcome
The RHA (Road Haulage Association) suggested last year that the UK Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) had cancelled “at least” 30,000 HGV driver testing slots the previous year, with reports citing Covid-19 as the reason. Conversely, in September 2021, DVSA reported that 316 vocational driving test appointments had gone unsold in just one week, with anecdotal evidence suggesting that a lack of examiners is to blame.

An ongoing challenge, it seems, is for employers to get drivers trained and tested in a timely manner – an issue that needs to be fixed first and foremost. In efforts to speed up the process, and fill driver roles, the Government has already invested millions into a package that includes skills bootcamps, with a target to offer 4,000 people training courses to become LGV drivers. The law was even changed to enable a driver with a first provisional lorry licence obtained after 15 November 2021 to take the DVSA test in an articulated lorry (Category C+E) without first having to be trained and pass the DVSA test in a rigid lorry (Category C).

Where does Driver CPC come in?
Many have an attitude problem when it comes to Driver CPC. We have heard countless times that organisations are not completing Driver CPC hours because they assume the scheme will be scrapped in the upcoming Government review. However, this seems unlikely, as precisely the same speculation was made around Brexit.

We also continually encounter organisations that see Driver CPC as a box-ticking exercise, with drivers repeating the same exact course every cycle, even though it’s not permitted without good reason. Sadly, this type of repetition does little to build professional skills and knowledge, and wastes a valuable training and development opportunity.

While compliance with Driver CPC hours is important, and safety is non-negotiable, we need to also re-focus on the benefits that Driver CPC training can bring to the drivers themselves. Especially as it has been shown that where employers invest in professional development, and training topics are relevant, drivers are more loyal and engaged. The right Driver CPC training could literally be the difference in keeping a driver in the job!
What’s the solution for 2022?

There will be no single solution to issues surrounding LGV driver training and Driver CPC. However, there are areas that we expect to develop in 2022 and beyond.

Firstly, operations will increasingly need flexibility when it comes to delivering Driver CPC training. One much discussed option is including elements of elearning into Driver CPC, enabling drivers to complete training around working hours, reducing lost time on the road. Anecdotally, we have heard support for this in the industry. In Oct 2021, RTITB surveyed over 600 current HGV drivers and 67.7 per cent said elearning should be included as an option for future Driver CPC training. Support for elearning was also in the majority in the 55+ age group at 54.7 per cent. With so much progress made on the quality of elearning during the pandemic, it feels this could be on the horizon.

Making Driver CPC and driver training arrangements also takes up hours that could be spent more profitably elsewhere in a business. So, it is possible we may start to see more organisations outsourcing their Driver CPC training, allowing their LGV instructors to spend more time training new drivers, while helping to clear Driver CPC training backlogs.

The industry could also start to consider ways to streamline its processes through digitalisation in the not-too-distant future. Change is already underway on the materials handling side, where RTITB has managed to significantly reduce the time it takes to get a qualified forklift operator into the workplace by introducing a digital ecard to replace traditional training certificates. This has helped employers reduce lost days by 88.7 per cent. It seems logical that innovations like this could follow suit for LGV drivers.

In addition to the availability of test slots, it is important not to overlook the availability of skilled trainers to deliver effective LGV and Driver CPC training. Remote Driver CPC Instructor training started during Covid-19 restrictions, and many businesses are still interested in this approach as it helps to save on travel time, as well as related costs. Maybe going remote could help get Instructors into the workplace faster?

Of course, these are just a few of the possibilities. The future of Driver CPC is yet to be determined, but we hope that the Government’s Driver CPC review delivers the package that our industry needs to succeed, with consideration for drivers at the centre of the solution.

RTITB is part of the Driver CPC consultation group that has been working with DfT on the review. Learn more about the RTITB Driver CPC Consortium: www.rtitb.com.

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