Select Committee on European Scrutiny Forty-First Report


5. TRAINING FOR PROFESSIONAL DRIVERS


(23868)

12814/02

COM(02) 541


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

Legal base:Article 71 EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting
Document originated:26 September 2002
Deposited in Parliament:14 October 2002
Department:Transport
Basis of consideration:EM of 28 October 2002
Previous Committee Report:None; but see (22110) 6021/01: HC 28-xi (2000-01), paragraph 4 (4 April 2001) and HC 152-vii (2001-02), paragraph 20 (21 November 2001)
To be discussed in Council:5-6 December 2002
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:Not cleared



Background

  5.1  In November 2001 we cleared a draft Directive on compulsory training of professional drivers for the carriage of goods and passengers by road. In addition to a full driving licence, new professional drivers of lorries, buses, coaches and minibuses would have to have 210 or 420 hours training (depending on the age of the driver and the size of the vehicle) with authorised training bodies, to acquire a "Certificate of Professional Competence" (CPC). All drivers would have to take a 35-hour retraining course every five years.

  5.2  Subsequent negotiations in a Council Working Group secured a text with significant improvements to the original proposals, re-focusing the proposed Regulation on the attainment of competence, with greater flexibility concerning process and much longer transitional arrangements.

  5.3  The Driving Standards Agency's Regulatory Impact Assessment of October 2001 showed road freight and passenger transport industries estimates of annual compliance costs of £125 million and £44 million respectively, with unquantified benefits of greater driver efficiency and reduced accidents.

The document

  5.4  The present document is the Commission's response, with a text, to the European Parliament's first reading of the Commission's draft. There are significant differences between the Council's and the European Parliament's texts. Whilst the text suggested by the Parliament is an improvement on the Commission's original proposals, it has not improved as much as the text agreed by the Council, which is more representative of industry preferences in the UK. For instance the European Parliament's text still envisages a minimum 420 or 210 training hours, whereas the Council text specifies 280 or 140 hours. The number of training hours is a major concern for the UK industry and associated bodies.

The Government's view

  5.5  The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Mr David Jamieson) tells us:

Current Policy

"There is no statutory period of training required before someone can drive either a Large Goods Vehicle (LGV) or a passenger-carrying vehicle (PCV) in Great Britain. Information provided by trade associations suggests that an LGV driver would undertake an average of 10 days training before taking his/her LGV test. A PCV driver would probably do the same, although for bus drivers a further 3-4 weeks training could follow licence acquisition. Driver training for vocational licence acquisition is expensive. The majority of LGV driver training is paid for by the individual whilst PCV training is more commonly paid for by the employer.

Policy Proposed by the European Commission

"Mandatory training for LGV and PCV drivers at the levels given within the Commission Directive's original proposals, in an arrangement where they could not contribute to the company, would mean major new costs for both industries and could add to the existing shortage of drivers......The 'Common Orientation' agreed by the Transport Council of Ministers on 7 December 2001, would reduce these new burdens to an extent that is more acceptable to the industry in Great Britain.

"The amended text from the European Parliament is closer to the Commission's original proposals than the text agreed by the Council of Ministers that was informed by public consultation with interested parties, and close working with the road freight and passenger transport industries. Adopting the Parliament's current proposals would be very unpopular with industry, and appear as if their viewpoint had been disregarded in negotiations. We would therefore wish to see the Parliament move towards a text that is reflective of industry views and much more akin to the Council text."

Conclusion

  5.6  We note the Government's and industry's preference for a text closer to the Council's one than to this document. As before, we urge the Minister to continue pressing for a competence-based rather than time-served basis to training. We ask him to report back on progress towards a more satisfactory agreed text. Meanwhile we do not clear the document.


 
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