Union secures exemption for agriculture from new Scottish driver rules

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

Driver CPC has been introduced across Europe with the aim of improving road safety and driving standards and is a necessary additional qualification for the likes of professional bus and lorry drivers, on top of vocational driving licences.

Responding to a recent consultation held by Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and Department of Transport (DfT) on CPC, NFUS strongly supported an exemption for mandatory CPC training for drivers of vehicles in agriculture, horticulture, forestry and farming.

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

The union also successfully opposed the introduction of a maximum radius that a driver can travel to conduct their activity, arguing that the application of a maximum radius would disadvantage farming and crofting businesses located in communities which are geographically remote or island-based.

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

In response, the DVSA has stated there will be no new mandate to record working time to demonstrate compliance with this exemption.

The DVSA also 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 the union’s concerns regarding inequitable broadband access and committed to ensuring alternative formats remain available to those undergoing training.

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

Commenting on the lobbying success, Tom French, chairman of Legal & Technical Committee said: “CPC exemptions for qualifying farmers and crofters has been on the Committee agenda for several years. This change is testament to the work of our committee members – past and present.

“The notable win here is that an exemption will be in place for eligible farmers and crofters. 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.

“Practically, the amendments to the law will come into force from July 22, 2020. For members wishing to discuss the change, the transport helpline is available to provide specific insight and a business guide update will also be available.”

Jamie Smart, NFU Scotland’s transport advisor, said: “It always seemed unfair that a farmer using their lorry to occasionally transport their own goods was subject to the same rules as a full-time driver transporting goods across the continent.

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