February 19, 2019

On course to keep your licence valid

Dan Gilkes refreshes his skills with Driver CPC training.

As any company operating a mix of trucks and vans will know, anyone driving a truck for hire and reward not only needs to hold the correct driving licence, but they also require a Driver Certificate of Competence.

The Driver CPC was introduced in 2009 and it requires all truck drivers to complete 35 hours of periodic training every five years. That training must be taken in seven-hour blocks with an approved training provider. However, you can choose how to do those five days, either opting for one day each year over the five-year period, two days here and three there, or doing all five days in one go towards the end of the five years.

Bearing in mind that Driver CPC was introduced in 2009, the first five-year period ended in 2014. Which means that the second period will expire in 2019, so there will be many companies who need to get their drivers through the training over the coming months. I am as guilty as many others and am currently going through my five days, having recently completed a two-day Optidriver course with Renault Trucks.

You might see this as unnecessary red tape, that takes drivers away from their everyday job for a day each year with no benefit to the company. Or, you can look at Driver CPC training as an opportunity, a way to improve skills, refresh abilities and reduce fuel consumption across the fleet.

The choice of CPC course content is not fixed, there are a huge number of courses on offer, covering many aspects of vehicle operation. This ranges from actual driver training in a truck, for economy or safety purposes, through to loading and unloading skills; health, safety and emergency techniques; physical and mental health; prevention of criminality and trafficking; even regulation and company issues.

Companies can even use the training to good effect within their own fleets. The Optidriver course at Renault for instance is designed to show drivers how to get the best from Renault’s T-range of heavy haulage trucks. However, it is also a train-the-trainer course, providing the opportunity to spread those fuel-efficient driving techniques throughout a company’s drivers.

The two-day course, for up to four delegates at a time, takes place in the classroom initially, at Renault Trucks’ Warwick base. The first morning is spent going through the controls and driver mode options of the T-range Renault truck. The delegates then do a walk-around of the vehicle, taking in daily check points and pre-drive safety checks.

In the cab, the bunk has been removed and three additional seats installed, to allow the trainer and up to four trainees to travel safely. The drivers take turns at the wheel, putting what they have been taught in the classroom into practice on the road. The second day has less time in the classroom and more on the road.

The on-road training is not spent simply cruising up and down motorways in top gear. It involves some of the trickiest Cotswold terrain that trainer Clive Bond can find, to make the drivers use the various systems on offer to maximise fuel efficiency.

The T-range trucks are equipped with an Optidriver automated gearbox, with 12 forward speeds and it is possible to simply put it in D and let the electronics take care of everything. However, there are various ways in which the driver can influence the transmission, using driver modes and multiple adaptive cruise control settings, including soft cruise resume.

The transmission also has an Optiroll transmission disconnect function and Optivision, which uses GPS and topographical data to ‘learn’ regular routes and select and hold gears accordingly. The results can be highly beneficial, saving fuel and reducing brake wear, while encouraging drivers to optimise their driving technique.

While the Optidriver course is not going to suit a company with 7.5-tonne or 12-tonne rigid trucks, there are as mentioned plenty of options out there. Driver CPC is a mandatory qualification, but it need not be an onerous chore. By choosing a course that will benefit your operation, it can be a big opportunity.