The consequences of missing the Driver CPC deadline

Commercial Motor
January 7, 2016

The deadline for drivers to have finished their CPC training – five years after the requirement was first introduced – is almost here, writes David Craik. But what are the consequences if they don’t?

It is an offence if a driver drives an HGV without a CPC, if you cause or permit another person to do so, or if
you fail to produce a driver Qualification Card (dQC) at the roadside.

Traffic commissioner (TC) Joan aitken has warned operators that they could find themselves before the TCs if their driver is found working without the dQC or fails to produce it. ayear ago she said action could be taken against the O-licences of those hauliers who fail to ensure their drivers carry out the necessary training.

The office of the TC says driving without the DQC or failing to produce it will carry a maximum fine of £1,000
for both the driver and the operator licence holder. “Driver CPC is not an optional extra; the industry has
been given plenty of notice of the deadline and any offences will be reported to TCs,” a spokesman says. “Vocational licence holders and operators could find themselves appearing before TCs to examine the circumstances. licence undertakings are a key part of compliant operating, including observing the laws relating to the driving and operation of vehicles. If operators don’t meet these responsibilities, TCs may
consider regulatory action.”

The office of the TC adds that it was “delighted” by the high level of compliance by operators and drivers ahead of the PCV CPC deadline a year ago and expects that to be mirrored in the road haulage industry.
“There had been apprehension in the bus and coach industry that drivers might not be ready. in fact, drivers
and operators had heeded the messages about the deadline,” the spokesman adds. “Aitken, the lead TC for driver CPC, hopes that the hGV industry will prove to be on the ball too and that the need for prosecutions or referrals to TCs will be limited.”

The DVSA says its enforcement officers already routinely check the driver CPC status of professional drivers. Following the deadline it will be able to check whether acquired rights drivers have completed
their training.

“After 10 September, if a driver is found not to have undertaken either the periodic or initial CPC training he/
she will be reported for prosecution and also reported to the TC,” a DVSA spokeswoman says. “If a driver has undertaken either periodic or initial training but is unable to produce a DQC, they will be issued with a fixed £50 penalty. A verbal warning will be issued if the driver has just applied for the card but has not yet received it. This is already the case with drivers who have not undertaken the initial training and with PSV drivers.”

No amnesty period
Will there be an amnesty period as the new regulations settle in? “as the industry has been aware of the
requirements for years, no amnesty period will be considered. Checking for driver CPC is part of every
roadside check we undertake and will continue to be so, both in the run-up to the September date and beyond,” the spokeswoman explains.

CPC prosecutions have already begun. earlier this year a driver with Surrey firm Dave Mundy Strip-out was found not to have a driver CPC initial qualification and therefore should not have been behind the wheel. The driver was fined £400 by City of london Magistrates for driving an HGV without the required CPC, and the company was handed a fine of more than £2,000 for the CPC and other offences including not having
an HGV licence.

"Offending drivers will be immediately prosecuted together with the o-licence holder,” says Anton Balkitis,
solicitor with Rothera Dowson. “As with any prosecution, first-time offenders will be treated more leniently than serial offenders and the conviction will have to be reported to the Office of the TC with the possibility of a call to a professional conduct hearing or, for the operator, a call to a public inquiry. No doubt the senior TC’s guidance shall be amended to incorporate some form of scale for disposal probably depending on the length of time without a card, whether it is a deliberate, inadvertent, or first-time offender.”

He adds that The Magistrates’ Sentencing Guidelines are unlikely to be of any help to courts when sentencing for the offence.

No excuses for non-compliance
“I suspect it will be left to TCs to come up with starting points for assessment of conduct in these cases,” Balkitis states. “Drivers and O-licence operators must comply with these regulations and publicity over the changes has been prevalent for many months, so I doubt any excuses shall be accepted for non-compliance.

“Pleading ignorance has never been an excuse at law and it is hard to believe that an operator did not know of the provisions or the date by which they must comply. The message is simple, if a driver does not have a
completed qualification card, he/she must not drive after 10 September and the operator must not permit him/her to do so,” he adds.

“You have to drive to commit the offence, so don’t until you are suitably qualified.”

James Backhouse of Backhouse Jones Solicitors expects roadside enforcement to be strict. “This was the case with the PSV sector last year with the most common breach being failure to carry a driver card. The additional issue was that if there was a serious accident, an insurer could seek indemnity for its outlay from the insured if the driver did not hold a CPC after the deadline,” he says.

“This can happen now for vocational driving entitlement and, although not yet determined, an insurer that has a significant outlay may look to see if it can avoid indemnity. It would have to pay out the third-party but might seek recovery from the insured.”

Jack Semple, director of policy at the Road Haulage Association, says he is worried about driver agencies
being ready. “A number of agencies seem to have woken up to the requirements of Driver CPC and how it might affect their businesses quite late in the day,” he says.

“However, the majority of hauliers will already be seeing CPC as an opportunity to improve their business
as well as a legal obligation. We welcome the robust line on compliance. Any firm that has not heard of CPC should not be in haulage.”

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