NFU Scotland wins Driver CPC exemptions for farmers

An exemption will be in place for eligible farmers and crofters from 22 July 2020
An exemption will be in place for eligible farmers and crofters from 22 July 2020

NFU Scotland has successfully lobbied for agriculture to be exempt from Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) requirements.

The union wanted an exemption for mandatory CPC training for drivers of vehicles in agriculture, horticulture and forestry.

The exemption applies when driving does not constitute the driver’s principle activity and when they are driving as part of their own entrepreneurial activity.

Driver CPC has been introduced across Europe with the aim of improving road safety and driving standards.

It is a necessary additional qualification for the likes of professional bus and lorry drivers, on top of vocational driving licences.

NFU Scotland also successfully opposed the introduction of a maximum radius that a driver can travel to conduct their activity.

It argued that the application of a maximum radius would disadvantage farming businesses located in communities which are geographically remote.

On the issue of recording drivers’ hours, the union urged the government to avoid placing an unnecessary regulatory burden on farmers who qualify for an exemption.

In response, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) stated there will be no new mandate to record working time to demonstrate compliance with this exemption.

The union also supported a more flexible approach to driver CPC training to meet the specific requirements for those completing training.

The DVSA has confirmed that greater flexibility will be adopted in training provision and now, up to 12 hours of the 35 hours of training required every five years can be completed online.

In addition, DVSA acknowledged concerns regarding inequitable broadband access and committed to ensuring alternative formats remain available to those undergoing training.

The new requirements will be implemented on 22 July 2020 by changing the Vehicle Drivers (Certificates of Professional Competence) Regulations 2007 SI 605, which apply to the UK.

Tom French, chair of NFU Scotland's legal committee, explained that the CPC exemptions for qualifying farmers had been on the agenda for years.

“The notable win here is that an exemption will be in place for eligible farmers and crofters," Mr French said.

"Further, our concerns regarding the introduction of a maximum radius for the exemption, access to online training, and recording drivers’ hours, have been understood.

"Notably, mandating a distance limit on the exemption may have unfairly disadvantaged those located in more remote or island communities, and news that this will not be introduced is welcome."

He added: “Practically, the amendments to the law will come into force from 22 July. For members wishing to discuss the change, the Transport Helpline is available to provide specific insight.”

Jamie Smart, NFU Scotland’s transport advisor, added that it was 'unfair' that a farmer using their lorry to occasionally transport their own goods was subject to the same rules as a full-time driver.

“This change exempts a farm business from the need for a certificate of driver competence but only where the vehicle is carrying the farms own goods and driving that vehicle makes up less than 30% of the drivers’ hours,” he said.