Directive 2003/59/EC, otherwise known as the Driver Training Directive is another piece of legislation from Europe firing warning shots across the bows of Britains waste management industry. Drawn up on September 10, 2003, the directive addresses the initial qualification and periodic training of drivers of certain road vehicles for the carriage of goods or passengers. What this means for waste management companies is an overhaul of their driver training methods and facilities.
The EU has given member states until September 10, 2006, to have the directive written into their own respective laws. By September 10, 2009, all of Europes heavy goods vehicle drivers (category C) must be trained in line with this directive.
Biffa health and safety support manager Ray Hipkin says: We need to start planning for this legislation and its effects now, especially in terms of consultation. Its effects could be serious. It could be a problem if the consultation programme isnt properly managed and not fully supported.
However, a consultation process is far from underway. In fact, there is little knowledge of the directive among the government departments that should be handling it. When asked, the Health and Safety Executive had no knowledge of the directive. When informed of the timescale, a spokesman said: Im sure we will know more about it closer to the time. At the moment it sounds like something the Department for Transport would handle. A Department for Transport spokesman said: I honestly havent heard of it. I think its slightly premature to be talking about it yet.
Other relevant Government bodies such as the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency and the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency are yet to provide information on the directive and the effect it may have on industry. Hipkin believes it is up to employers to get the debate started on the driver training directive.
Under the new rules proposed in the directive, drivers will be required to take both a theory and practical test. This will include demonstrating to examiners knowledge of technical characteristics and safety controls, which can vary greatly from vehicle to vehicle. As Hipkin puts it: At the moment we have a very open directive. The descriptions are quite broad with no detail. In the waste management industry, we all need to be part of the consultation because these are issues the people in Whitehall will want to know. For example, what is the implication of the theory test for industry?
The depth of knowledge the test requires is extensive. As well as demonstrating technical expertise, drivers are also tested on their ability to load vehicles and be aware of their own physical and mental health.
Trainers will only be recognised if theyre on an approved list, but Biffa has its own training facility. Hipkin asks: Does this mean we need to employ an approved trainer or make sure our own centre is accredited? Where will it leave your selected training provider?
The new tests and their enforcement will also have implications for firms using temporary drivers. As employers, waste management firms will be expected to make sure the drivers of their vehicles are correctly trained. While companies can ensure their full-time drivers are fully trained, stringent checks will need to be put in place with agencies to make sure part-time drivers have an up-to-date licence.