If you asked someone in the transport industry if they had a CPC, their positive response used to indicate that they were qualified as a Transport Manager. Not so simple nowadays as the legislators, in their wisdom, decided that the mandatory continual professional development (CPD) scheme that they introduced for HGV/PCV drivers would also be called a Certificate of Professional Competence, writes Phil Clifford.

While there are huge differences between a Transport Manager CPC and a Driver CPC, both schemes are designed to improve and maintain the skills of the recipients and raise the profile of road transport as a highly skilled industry.

Yet the public perception of truck drivers has not improved much and most people probably haven't got a clue what a transport manager (or fleet manager) does. Sadly, neither do some of the organisations that employ them!

So what can we do to raise the profile of transport managers? Clearly, as indicated by the Traffic Commissioners, those with a TM CPC should look to improve and update their skills by attending refresher courses that provide updates to transport legislation. But I also feel that we, the managers, should also continually seek to improve our knowledge.

Reading the trade press is a good starting point as it is clearly aimed at providing news and information relevant to both the industry in general and any particular sector you are engaged in (utilities, local authorities, NHS etc). Skills can be further honed by joining a professional institute relevant to your sector. Once a member, you will have access to masses of information, help lines and archived records which can help develop your skills and knowledge. And, more importantly, they give you the opportunity to benchmark and share problems and ideas with like-minded professionals.

We can also attend exhibitions and conferences where we can see all manner of vehicles, equipment, systems, specialists and so on which will help us in the on-going management and procurement of our fleets.

Now consider this: for transport managers, none of this is mandatory (other than the TM CPC if you manage an O-licensed fleet). However, a driver is now forced by law to complete on-going competency training in order to continue as a professional driver.
I hear and read many disparaging comments about how futile and useless the driver CPC training system is but I firmly believe that the problem isn't the scheme but the application of it.

Drivers have to attend, so why are we not making more of this captive audience by ensuring the training is relevant to specific sectors? It could be an ideal opportunity to develop bespoke courses which cover everything your drivers need to know to undertake the work that your organisation is engaged in.

Let me give you an example. As a local authority, my drivers enjoy (I use the term loosely) exemptions from many pieces of legislation that apply to haulage operators. The classic is drivers' hours' regulations: much of our work is carried out under the rules for domestic hours but, on CPC coursesabout drivers' hours' legislation, much of the content is based on EU rules and digital tachographs.

To sit a driver through seven hours of that when he or she will not need it is a wasted opportunity. How radical would it be to retune the course to major on domestic hours' rules and the problems that arise when mixed rules need to be applied?

I suppose it's hardly surprising that drivers and transport managers can often be overheard saying things like 'I have been managing/driving for 30 years and there's nothing that they can teach me'. But I can tell you that I have been in fleet management for more than 37 years, yet I am amazed at what I learn when I sit in on a driver CPC session or attend a legislative update conference.

I have said this many times before but I don't mind repeating it: if we want people to respect our industry and recognise us as true professionals, whether we are drivers or managers, then we have to make the effort to get out there and be professional.

So, I hope to see you all at forthcoming conferences, including the Future Fleet Forum, held at Stoneleigh Park on June 29.

Phil Clifford is the fleet manager for both Forest Heath District and St Edmundsbury Borough councils, operating under the joint brand of West Suffolk. His specialisms include: fleet procurement, use of vehicle telematics, development and use of fleet management software systems. He is a strong advocate of benchmarking and sharing best practice. He is the founder and board manager of the Public Authority Transport Network (PATN); member of the Freight Transport Association, East of England Freight Council, and committee member of the British Standards Institute working group B/508/01 (Waste containers and associated lifting devices on refuse collection vehicles).