Training providers advise on best practice
We all know that as a minimum to retain a PCV driving licence, we need to keep up with the 35 hours of Driver CPC training, in addition to any other training requirements, but how do you know the courses you are selecting are the ones most suited to you and your operation? What is the best way to roll out a training regime across your fleet? Chris Peat spoke to a number of training providers to find out their recommendations.
What courses are selected depends on what you are operating, advises Lead Trainer and Proprietor of Phoenix Training, John Pepperell. John said it may sound obvious, but it is well worth keeping in mind that courses should be relevant to what services are being run. ‘There’s no point whatsoever in doing EU drivers’ hours if you operate local services. But if you are doing extended tours and going abroad, then all the EU material will be relevant. Likewise, if you are transporting special needs people then things like wheelchair securement and first aid are all well worth covering.’
With this in mind, John said it is important to use a training company with flexible, modular courses, which allow you to pick and choose which particular training is most relevant and useful. In terms of how often training should be carried out, he said, ‘I’ve always suggested one day a year.’
John said, ‘Some more advice would be to phone the company and ask them, “What can you do for me?” Get them to design something specific.’
With Phoenix offering Driver CPC periodic training for £35 per head per day, John confirmed it is possible to provide good training at a good price. His company offers such a competitive price as it has trained a lot of local authorities over the years who he says ‘don’t want to pay any more than that’. He has simply carried over that same price to the bus and coach industry.
John also suggests using a training provider that is long established. Experience in the industry is important, he says. ‘You can get a guy to go out to operators with all the notes and slides he needs, and he can be good at interacting with the class and delivering the training. But if, say, you’re teaching someone in a course designed for someone doing special needs school transport, then you need someone that has first hand experience of doing that. We have those kinds of people, so they can give you advice and be able to deal with questions.’
Ensure the course lasts for the full seven hours, said John, ‘Not just someone that allows them to sign up and then go.’ He says there are some training providers that allow trainees to sign up and be finished before the end of the day. He says such a set up is a waste of money. Also, he said to make sure a certificate is handed out at the end of the course, as these documents are ‘famous for getting lost in the post’.
Tachodisc’s Angela Eardley said that when it comes to the Driver CPC, the goal should be to ensure the choice of course not only suits the operation, but provides what the driver needs. She often advises operators to carry out an in-depth induction when taking on new drivers. How an operator assesses their staff’s knowledge is ‘quite key’. She suggests new recruits are asked questions, not just given a tick-box questionnaire to fill out. That way a better idea of what sort of training they will most benefit from is gained.
She does not like the idea that a driver could do the same course ‘again and again’. However, in some cases, for instance if a driver keeps making the same mistakes and repeatedly gets infringements, then she believes covering the same topics as before could be revisionary and help drive home the mistakes they are making and how to avoid them.
Like John from Phoenix Training above, Angela suggested drivers are put through one day of CPC training per year to keep up their mandatory 35 hours. By doing this, ‘You can then see how drivers perform through the year and identify what elements they can train on.’ Certainly the way not to go is to do all 35 hours in a single chunk, which she says is a ‘waste of money’ and the employees will not sufficiently take what is taught onboard.
Angela said, ‘A lot do not use Driver CPC the way it is supposed to be used. It is intended to give drivers regular training. Some see it as a tick box exercise and that isn’t what it’s there for.’
Minimise your Risk
Alec Horner, founder of Minimise your Risk, gave the following advice in terms of rolling out training: ‘Operators should be aware that new drivers, who passed their PCV and initial driver CPC tests after September 2008, will all have different training cycles and expiry dates on their current DQC (Driver Qualification Card). Therefore operators should be planning to organise one course for every driver each year to keep all their drivers within their training cycle expiry dates. When all the older “acquired rights” drivers have retired everyone will have a different expiry date on their DQC.’
‘Subjects should be relevant to the operator’s needs and the drivers’ work, so it’s pointless running a course on low floor buses for coach drivers, whilst most bus drivers working on UK domestic drivers hours rules do not need to understand EU drivers hours rules and digital tachographs. Courses which involve some practical elements are usually more popular with drivers, such as first aid, cycle awareness or vehicle evacuation courses, whilst if walk round checks are part of the course then it’s always good to have a real vehicle available for a practical exercise as part of the day’s proceedings.’
‘Topical subjects are drugs and alcohol awareness, where there have been recent changes with the new drugs and driving laws from 2 March and the lower drink drive limits in Scotland from 5 December last year. This is one of our most popular courses and includes a “practical” session with lots of bottles and cans, unfortunately all empty, and a real police breathalyser. This is what Driver CPC is all about – updating drivers’ knowledge and skills and not teaching them how to suck eggs. These subjects can be presented in a very interesting way if operators engage training organisations who put the information and messages across in an effective practical way which their drivers can relate to – it’s not about “death by PowerPoint!” Minimise Your Risk also gives “added value” with useful handouts, such as copies of the Highway Code, PSV 375 and other useful booklets on the effects of fatigue, manual handling for luggage and drugs and alcohol awareness.’
Novadata reminds readers that even though transport managers only need to pass their Passenger Transport Management CPC once, if they drive for a living as well then they need to train periodically to keep their DQC current. Like many providers above, the company says it makes a lot of sense to schedule one day of Driver CPC training each year, per driver.
Planning ongoing training should begin as soon as each driver obtains their DQC, advises Novadata. The benefits of this approach are that you can plan well ahead for each driver being off the road for a day, as well as being able to establish a track record for planning your driver training responsibly. The company says this can stand you in good stead with the authorities in the event of an inspection as it demonstrates a serious attitude towards training and that you do not leave training to the last minute before renewal deadlines.
A spokesperson from Novadata said, ‘Don’t neglect the opportunity to take an Operator Awareness Course. Attending one of these every few years is an excellent idea, particularly for Restricted Operator Licence holders, as they act as a reminder of the undertakings you must meet legally to protect your licence. They will also flag up any areas in which you are failing to comply and highlight any changes in the law since your Restricted Operator Licence was granted. Remember, your business may be at risk if you lose your Operator Licence.’
As well as choosing courses to suit business needs, Novadata claim it is always topical to select courses covering safe and economic driving. First aid courses can count towards Driver CPC, so you can fulfil two training needs in one by choosing this. There are courses designed specifically for coach drivers, which cover customer service and conflict management. Novadata also runs a course specifically tailored to the needs of drivers who make school runs. A course covering Drivers’ Hours law is a very good idea, according to the company, as it is vital to comply with this.
It also makes sound sense to choose a course that will update your knowledge after a change in the law. For example, with the abolition of driving licence counterparts, drivers need to know how to provide licence details to their employers; it has Driver CPC courses that cover this. It says that if in doubt, ask your training provider if there have been legal changes and which of their courses will help drivers stay up to date with best practice. Novadata constantly evolves its course content to help customers stay up to date.
Novadata runs a five day course which proves popular with new drivers, particularly those embarking on a new course after a career in the armed forces. The company suggests that once a DQC has been obtained, you can schedule one day a year, take several courses together in some commercial downtime or complete a five day course again nearer your next renewal deadline. However, it suggests bearing in mind that regular training does help you to stay up to date with best practice and is favoured by Traffic Commissioners.
One of the most important things to check when selecting a DCPC course, according to Sibbald Training, is that it applies to LGV or PCV. CPC Co-Director, John McLachlan, said many courses cover both types of driver but some are specific to the PCV or Haulier industry. If a bus driver took five LGV modules, he would not have any of the Periodic Training attributed to his licence and would not receive a card.
Sibbald’s most successful and informative course is the ‘Drivers Hours Regulations and the Highway Code’. This serves to refresh drivers on the finer details of the Drivers Hours directive and is ‘very worthwhile’, according to John. He said, ‘I attended one of these modules and had a driver with 47 years’ experience comment on how informative the course had been, and how embarrassed he was that he had marked a few wrong answers on our pop quiz which relates to the course.’
On its Drivers Hours course, Sibbald carries out a test at the start to see gaps in knowledge and at the end to check the gaps are filled. John said, ‘Failure to adhere to the Drivers Hours Directive can result in points on an operator’s licence and in some cases prosecution and/or a custodial sentence. Good up to date knowledge of Drivers Hours Regulations is imperative for drivers as a result.’
All drivers can apply for an online account with the DVSA, which allows them to check the modules completed which are attributed to their licence. John said, ‘Setting drivers up with Individual Learning Accounts (ILA) funding can help toward the cost. ILA is a grant of £200 toward the cost of training and if drivers meet the criteria, it is awarded annually. This allows drivers to do their suggested one module per year for five years free, which of course offsets costs. The once a year regime also allows operators to better manage the driver’s time and complete the training without huge upheaval or downtime while staff are taking the training. Sibbald Training can also manage the DCPC training for any company that would like us to and will make sure all driving staff are trained efficiently and within the required timeframes.’
Gordon Springate Transport Training Services
Much of the above has focused on Driver CPC, however training drivers to pass their driving test should not be ignored. Gordon Springate Transport Training Services provides this under the mantra of ‘We teach you to drive, not take you for a ride’. Having offered this service since 1979, the company can take an employee through the whole process, from applying for a provisional licence, the medical, the theory test and the practical test. It offers a five day course that trains someone up from not having a licence to gaining one. The trainer also offers Driver CPC courses, including the initial CPC qualification. These include tachograph training, vehicle maintenance, safe driving, driver health and safety and customer care and accident procedures.
The best thing to do when putting together a training regime in an operation, according to Julie McDonald from Gordon Springate, is to get a free assessment prior to booking any training with a provider. She said to make sure you see the vehicles and the facilities they use for it. Julie stressed the fact they are not training brokers, her company deals with customers from the moment they call till they receive their certificate. She said, ‘We do what we say we are going to do and we do not overcharge.’
Nottingham City Transport
Another option is to use an operator trainer, such as Nottingham City Transport (NCT). Karl Ward, NCT’s Training Manager, advises ensuring the training being provided is relevant and interactive. He said, ‘You don’t want someone coming in and just talking at the class. It’s not a lecture, it’s a lesson. You have to make whatever you’re showing, telling or doing very interactive. People learn different ways, some drivers might learn just by having someone talk to them constantly, but most don’t.’
More advice Karl gave in terms of training relates to the employee selection process. He said, ‘It’s no good just taking someone who is not the right person for the job. This is where you have to work with HR, ensuring you have got the right person before doing any training. The problem is that if they are not in the right mind frame, then it may take them slightly longer to learn what they need to learn.’
As well as a wide range of Driver CPC courses, covering the most important topics, NCT also provides training in helping passengers with sight loss. The operator won an RNIB award last year for its work in better informing drivers to assist in supporting the blind. It also provides BHF Heartstart courses, providing drivers with the skills needed to assist in the case of a customer suffering a heart attack or failure, including CPR and other life saving skills.
Another operator trainer is East Yorkshire Motor Services (EYMS). It offers various DCPC courses that can be run in any order to make up the 35 hours of mandatory training. Its courses are continually being updated and developed. The company can also assist with passing the test for a PCV licence and the initial Driver CPC qualification. An advantage of using an operator trainer, according to the head of the firm’s training arm, is that trainees respond better to instructors that bring their own real world experience to bear during the educational process.
Drivers and other frontline staff may prove to create the bulk of training requirements, but management and other back office staff should also not be forgotten. A company providing training for these employees is QV Associates, which delivers courses on route and timetable planning and bus and crew scheduling. Iain Macbrier from the company said that it is a difficult area to cover, as the training requirements are not that easy to define. He believes it is much easier to work out what drivers need to know than what the traffic office needs to know. However, there are some ‘very specific skills’ needed to run a depot from day to day.
Even though an employee may not be directly involved with scheduling or timetabling, Iain said it is still important they have the knowledge of how these areas work if employed in an environment where these activities take place. He told me that it helps them understand what those who work in these areas are talking about, if they have an understanding of the technical terms and ideas. No training is provided on any specific software, Iain said it is solely the ideas and principles behind the disciplines he teaches. Individual software companies will provide training in how to use their packages.
In QV Associates’ route and timetable planning course, once they have been given the knowledge and skills they need, attendees are then able to put these into practice. As an example, they might be asked to re-route the Cheltenham off-peak bus network.
People1st, the workforce development organisation for the bus and coach industry, is another provider of courses for managers. It recently put 20 coach industry managers from the Guild of British Coach Operators through its Management 1st training and development programme. Two courses were run exclusively for managers working in the coach industry, allowing delegates from ten different companies to learn how to improve their management skills and discuss how to apply them in an industry context.
People1st’s Business Development Manager, Sharon Gailey, said, ‘Often, coach industry staff are promoted on the basis of being “good at their job” but aren’t given support with developing the soft skills they need to manage other people effectively – for example, how to handle difficult conversations, or understanding the different ways to motivate staff. That’s why we developed our Management 1st training – it’s a real need for businesses. We’re proud to be working with The Guild and its members to help the industry develop its managers and ensure effective leadership for the future.’
Nationwide Transport Training
A company that can source any training requirements is Nationwide Transport Training, part of Nationwide Transport Breakdown Services. The business can sort out any type of training, working with operators of various sizes. One course proving popular currently is for tail lifts.
L&T Transport Training
Family owned and run L&T Transport Training provides driver training. Since 2012 it has been an approved Driving Test Centre, allowing students to train and take their test at its Fitzwilliam site. As well as training for driving various sized vehicles, the company also carries out initial and periodic training.
Ward International, provider of JAUPT approved CPC courses, holds regular training sessions at its headquarters in Fareham, Hampshire. However, it can also be arranged for the courses to be delivered at suitable customer premises.
Tangerine Transport Solutions
As well as Driver CPC, driver training and other courses, Tangerine also provides a licence check service. With the team all having a PCV background, it provides its training to an array of different operators, including some high profile ones.
Specialist Training and Consultancy Services
Providing a wide range of courses, from DCPC to health and safety to first aid, is Specialist Training and Consultancy Services. The company aims to provide an efficient and customer centred training and consultancy service staffed by industry experts. Based in Lancashire, it offers courses throughout the UK.
Driver and Manager CPC courses are offered by Wright Training, as well as tachograph and driver hours training. It aims to keep classes small, ensuring they stay informal and personal, which it believes helps ensure the trainees better understand the material.
Lloyd Morgan Group
Amongst its compliance consulting services, Lloyd Morgan Group also offers training. It provides bespoke Driver CPC training, vehicle inspector training and an engineering management qualification amongst other courses.
One of the salient pieces of advice delivered by trainers is to ensure training matches staff needs. This involves knowing employees and recognising what can be improved. Whatever their needs, there are plenty of companies out there who can assist in bettering their skills.