Select Committee on European Scrutiny Seventh Report


COM(01) 56

Draft Directive on the training of professional drivers for the carriage of goods or passengers by road.

Legal base: Article 71 EU; co-decision; qualified majority voting
Document originated: 2 February 2001
Forwarded to the Council: 5 February 2001
Deposited in Parliament: 23 February 2001
Department: Transport, Local Government and the Regions
Basis of consideration: SEM of 20 November 2001
Previous Committee Report: HC 28-xi (2000-01), paragraph 4 (4 April 2001)
To be discussed in Council: 6-7 December 2001
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared, but information on progress requested


20.1  This draft Directive proposes minimum initial driver training and periodic retraining requirements for lorry and bus drivers, in addition to the possession of a driving licence. When the previous Committee considered the proposal in April, it did not clear it, asking to see the results of the consultation exercise planned by the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) , and the resulting Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA). It also asked to be kept informed about the outcome of negotiations on the issue of competence-based rather than time-served training.

The Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum

20.2  The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions (Mr John Spellar) has now provided a Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum, together with a report on the public consultation exercise and a copy of the RIA. He tells us that the proposal has been discussed at three meetings of the Transport Council Working Group during the Swedish Presidency and four under the Belgian Presidency. The Belgians are making the proposal one of their priorities, and are hoping for political agreement on it at the Council meeting on 6-7 December.

20.3  The Minister reports:

    "In negotiations at meetings of the European Transport Council Working Group, UK has argued that:

    — new drivers must be allowed the flexibility to start initial training before holding a full licence;

    — new drivers taking initial training after obtaining a full licence must be able to work in their profession;

    — the case for distinguishing between minimum initial training (210 hrs) and full initial training (420 hrs) had not been made — a driver is either competent or not;

    — a competence-based approach to training is preferable to a time-served approach.

    — any periodic retraining requirement should support risk-management arrangements.

    — entering 5-yearly training codes on driving licences implies 5-yearly licence renewals, which UK opposes.

    — once proposals were agreed, Member States and industry would need at least a 5-year implementation period.

    — any European driver training requirement should have regard to recent enhancements to European driving test standards in Commission Directive 2000/56[61] — the two syllabi overlap by over 60%. Also, it should be considered alongside proposals in any Third European Directive on driving licences, and social legislation relating to road transport."

20.4  The Minister further tells us that the following improvements have so far been made to the proposals during discussions in the Working Group:

    "—allowing professional training to start before obtaining a full driving licence.

    — allowing drivers holding full licences in national vocational training schemes to work whilst completing initial professional training.

    — more flexibility in how retraining could be undertaken — not just a single 1-week course.

    — exempting drivers from the professional training requirements where EU law exempts them from having to hold a lorry or bus driving licence.

    — applying the training provisions to drivers holding non-EU driving licences working for EU operators.

    — more time to implement — 4 years for initial [passenger-carrying vehicles] PCV training, 5 years for initial [large goods vehicles] LGV training, and 7 years for periodic re-training."

20.5  In relation to the public consultation exercise, the Minister says:

    "DSA received 75 written replies, of which many were collective responses. The UK road freight and passenger transport industries and other interested parties have generally supported the aims of the Directive to improve standards of lorry and bus drivers and to raise professionalism within the road and passenger transport sectors. However, they have expressed concerns about the rigidities and costs implied by the proposals, the impact upon driver's shortages and that the approach to training is at odds with the competence-based approach that UK has adopted in vocational training generally over recent years."

20.6  The Minister encloses a copy of the RIA, which was originally prepared by DSA as part of the consultation exercise and revised in the light of responses. (The Commission itself has not produced a Business Impact Assessment to support the draft Directive.) Besides discussing the possible costs to the public sector, to goods and bus operators and to training providers, the RIA notes that many professional drivers drive very basic but essential service vehicles, such as road sweepers and skip loaders. These jobs are well-suited for those with literacy problems, but the kind of training prescribed in the draft Directive could be a significant deterrent. The RIA also assesses the benefits inherent in the draft Directive. It does not come to any overall conclusions.

20.7  The Minister tells us that, generally, Member States are positive about the aims of the draft Directive but have major concerns about some aspects of the proposal, especially the likely costs. The UK will continue to press its points, and build partnerships with like-minded States to achieve a sensible common position.


20.8  We thank the Minister for his helpful Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum with its attachments.

20.9  Although the proposal has clearly been improved in Working Group discussions, the Government does not seem yet definitely to have won the day for a competence-based rather than a time-served approach to training. Noting that respondents to the consultation exercise also favoured a competence-based approach, we urge the Government to continue to press for this, and, generally, to press for an emphasis on standard-setting rather than on prescribed methods of training delivery.

20.10  We are now content to clear the document, but we ask to be kept informed of its progress.

61  Commission Directive 2000/56/EC, amending Council Directive 91/439/EEC on driving licences. Back

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