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Large numbers of lorry drivers will be required to hold a new licence from 10 September. But the law fails to define clearly who must have one, giving equestrians another seemingly impenetrable transport rule to unravel.

The new qualification, called the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC), is for “professional” drivers of lorries over 3.5tonnes.

The Driving Standards Authority (DSA) says the certificate — which costs from £105 to obtain (see below) — has been developed to raise the driving standards.

But the law fails to define “professional”, and some who consider themselves professional horse people, but not professional drivers, may find they are affected.

“If you drive horses and compete as a hobby, then there’s no need. But if competing with horses is your career, then you would be considered a professional,” said David Shepherd at the DSA.

He said the DSA intends to let the courts clarify the matter as cases arise.

Lawyer Jacqui Fulton said that while testing drivers for the new certificate may benefit horse welfare, the practicalities of getting the CPC are onerous.

“There’s the huge grey area of whether you’re a professional or not,” she said. “And how is the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency [VOSA] going to police it? Is it going to stop every horsebox?

“We all know whoever gets caught will get the book thrown at them to set an example.”

Amanda Bond from British Dressage added: “While I support any move to improve safety, this legislation needs more thought. Clearer guidance is needed otherwise this confusion will lead to failure.”

But George Smith of George Smith Horseboxes said the CPC is “no bad thing”.

“We work with a driving school to familiarise people with the difference between driving horseboxes and a car,” he said, adding that he believes the introduction of the Driver CPC “won’t have a dramatic effect” on the industry.

Transport consultant Carl Myers said: “An industry standard that ensures increased safety is an excellent step forward. There will always be a minority of drivers who will see this as more red tape. If a licence is used professionally, the CPC must be taken.”

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (3 September, ’09)

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