Why do British vocational drivers have to have three pieces of plastic?

Posted on: Tuesday, 31 July 2012 by Root Administrator

By James Firth, Head of Road Freight and Enforcement Policy

In the middle of July, just before Brussels broke up for its summer holiday, the European Commission produced a paper regarding Driver CPC. The EU is always good at giving its documents catchy titles and the

REPORT FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, THE COUNCIL, THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE AND THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS on the implementation of Directive 2003/59/EC relating to the initial qualification and periodic training of drivers of certain road vehicles for the carriage of goods or passengers

was amongst one of its best efforts. The paper aims to satisfy the Commission’s commitment written into the Directive to make an initial evaluation of the implementation of the directive across all member states and, amongst other things, highlight any potential problems. But a couple of sharp-eyed FTA members picked up (before I did) a short paragraph which, on the face of it, sounds very worrying:

Mutual recognition of the transitional periods decided by the Member States has been agreed. Accordingly, until the deadline of 2015 (vehicle category D) and 2016 (vehicle category C), drivers cannot be penalised in any Member State for not having completed the periodic training. (para 2.8)

This sounds like absolutely no enforcement of Driver CPC for HGV drivers will take place before 2016, while here in GB we are all working towards the 2014 deadline. Understandably members were pretty concerned about this.

The good news for the responsible operator is that this paper is not an instruction from Brussels for a free-for-all. The purpose of the paper is to highlight potential problems that may have arisen as each member state has implemented the requirements of the directive in its own unique way.

The directive allows member states flexibility of two years in either direction of the 2013/14 deadlines for the first cycle only of Driver CPC. The Commission’s Driving Licence Committee had a meeting a few years back which agreed that if a driver from a country whose deadline was 2016 (eg Germany) was stopped in a country whose domestic deadline was 2014 (eg GB), then the visiting driver’s domestic requirements would be respected by local enforcers. So the excerpt above is not instructing member states not to enforce until 2016, it is highlighting a problem that currently the visiting driver’s domestic requirements cannot be respected by local enforcers if the enforcers don’t know all the varying deadlines of all member states. Fortunately, the paper goes on to suggest a solution in its conclusions:

Regarding the national differences in the timetabling of periodic training, the exchange of national timetables should help overcome any difficulty that enforcement authorities may face when checking drivers from abroad. This can be done within the Committee established under Article 12. (para 3.2)

And as part of the enquiries made to each member state, they have aggregated all the differing requirements. Problem solved. In practice, after about three months of enforcement activity, VOSA examiners will know off by heart: “German driver: doesn’t need proof of Driver CPC yet, Hungarian driver: should be carrying Driver Qualification Card, Austrian Driver: should have “code 95” marked on licence and Danish driver: I have to go and look up on the chart to see if the date in the month of his birthday is in the bracket which puts them into the correct category on the rolling deadline process which indicates they should have “code 95” on their licence yet.” This should be as simple as sharing the annex to the Commission’s document with all the EU’s enforcement agencies.

So why is the deadline variable between member states? It is not – contrary to some suggestions – to give these member states more time to comply with the Directive. Nor is it something that has recently been negotiated as part of the financial bailout package; this flexibility has been in the Directive since day one and is there to allow member states to bring Driver CPC administration into line with existing driver licence administration cycles, and for four of the five member states who have pushed the deadline out to 2015/16 they have been able to represent DCPC compliance using the “code 95” on the licence rather than issue driver qualification cards (although six member states have managed this while still observing the 2014 deadline). FTA Freight Councils still recognise the fact that British drivers now have to hold three pieces of plastic (driver licence, driver qualification card and digital tachograph card) as the single biggest failing of the Department for Transport and Driving Standards Agency in implementing DCPC. “It can’t be done,” they told us. It appears that Austria, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland and Slovenia did not find this problem quite so insurmountable. And as the new proposals for changes to digital tachographs seem increasingly less likely to allow for the combination of the digicard with the driving licence it seems British professional drivers will be stuck with three pieces of plastic for some time.

Perhaps the Commission should write a paper on the harmonisation of all three. I dread to think how long its title would be.

The full paper can be found here.

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