Monday, July 1, 2013

Road Haulage Interests Welcome UK Transport Investment and Call for More Stringent Driver CPC Tests

Slightly Sceptical Note at Treasury Chiefs Announcement as Better and More Regular Training Advised
Shipping News Feature

UK – The news that the government is to invest over £28 billion between 2014 and 2020 to maintain and enhance Britain’s road network was naturally welcomed by the country’s freight and road haulage community. The Road Haulage Association (RHA) was quick to praise the acknowledgement in a speech by Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander that the highway infrastructure was essential, but RHA Chief Executive, Geoff Dunning, added a cautionary note, saying that while welcoming the commitment of £10 billion in road repairs between 2015-16 and 2020-21, the RHA is concerned that for some areas, these repairs will come too late. £6 billion of that commitment has been earmarked for Local Authorities to fill the equivalent of 19 million pot holes a year. Mr Dunning said:

“It is essential that work starts without delay if the UK haulage industry is to deliver economic growth. It is also essential that we as an industry see money being spent as opposed to hearing intentions of spending. The past couple of years have seen many road users faced with appalling driving conditions as a result of extreme weather. The knock-on effects, coupled with under-investment in maintenance over many years, have seen many side roads, in particular those leading to industrial sites and other areas, left in a condition that can be both dangerous and damaging to vehicles. It is vital that these improvements start now – waiting until next year for this work to start is not an option.”

The RHA broadly welcomed the transformation of the Highways Agency into a publicly owned corporation and stated it was looking for an uplift in standards and awaiting details on issues such as engagement, transparency, accountability, the standards to be achieved, funding, use of information and user charging, and particularly the approach which the Agency will be taking toward improving and providing appropriate, secure, truck parking facilities.

The RHA has also launched a review of the Driver CPC, the EU-wide mandatory training requirement that came into force almost four years ago and, with the deadline for all companies to comply by ensuring their drivers are suitably qualified, looming large, the organisation feels the industry itself can make more positive use of the legal requirement and also that it needs to be better informed as to how firms can work within the Directive; and that UK regulators can also improve the way the existing Directive (2003/59/EC) is implemented here.

Speaking at the RHA Training National Conference at Warwick University last week, RHA director of policy Jack Semple said that in the medium term, the UK has an opportunity to help lead the debate about how the EU Directive can be improved so that it is better suited to the industry and uses modern training technology. He indicated that continuous professional development for drivers is by its nature evolving and that the industry must accept and embrace that and strive to improve the CPC through a progressive approach.

The RHA’s review will highlight examples of progressive implementation by hauliers and how UK regulators can help hauliers and trainers to take a flexible, targeted approach to Driver CPC training. The RHA is engaging with the Department for Transport and its agencies on Driver CPC issues and is also considering strong calls from members for new regulation around the idea of requiring annual training, something the RHA pressed for unsuccessfully when the new rules were introduced, and to stop drivers doing the same course up to five times, as a ‘tick-box’ exercise. The RHA Driver CPC review, to be published later this year, will also aim to promote a positive image of the industry, one of the main objectives of the Directive itself.

Photo: When the neglect of repairing potholes grew to untenable levels in Yekaterinburg, Russia last year agitators reportedly turned to ridiculing local politicians by caricaturing them featuring the faults. According to reports the scheme proved extremely successful.