We catch up with Peter Oakford, chair of the DODF, to find out how the scheme is doing, and what he sees as the opportunities and challenges ahead, as well as to hear about recent changes made to ensure it meets the specific needs of the home heat sector.
Covid and the restrictions on training must have been challenging for the Scheme, what did you do?
When we went into lockdown in March 2020, we worked closely with Industry and the relevant Government Departments to put training and assessment dispensations in place to allow the industry to continue to function safely. This work on dispensations continued throughout 2020 and 2021 as various Covid restrictions impacted on companies’ ability to train their staff.
We are very grateful for the help and support of our Scheme Manager, SQA, throughout this period, and the commitment of the sector to support PDP. We are delighted to see that the numbers of drivers with a PDP card has returned to over 11,000, having dropped below this figure in 2021 due to the impact of the pandemic. 2022 has been a year of returning to normality. We had planned to conduct a holistic review of the PDP Scheme in 2020, as it had then been up and running for 8 eight years, but this had to be put on hold until this summer/autumn.
Obviously, you have just completed this review of the Scheme – what were the key findings?
The overall conclusion was that the Scheme is still fit for purpose and brings a good level of consistency of training and assessment across the industry. There were some areas for improvement, which we are now working through. However, an urgent concern raised was that the Scheme was not fully compatible with the working practices of the home heat sector.
So, what have you done to ensure the Scheme is right for the vital home heat sector?
We have revised the syllabus to ensure the training and assessment criteria are appropriate and relevant to this sector. This included removing any inadvertent bias towards retail training, and adding top loading theory and skills to the classroom training and practical assessment elements.
In addition, we have reduced the drive time criteria and increased the number of unloading elements for the home heat sector to align better with their delivery schedules. We felt it was important, once we understood the concerns, to show we had listened and acted quickly, working with the PDP Management Group and UKIFDA, to make these changes.
PDP Training Providers, who work with the home heat sector, are now expected to amend their classroom training and materials, and their assessment processes to reflect the revised Syllabus. We hope that these changes address the concerns raised and will ensure PDP training and assessment is viewed as relevant to all home heat drivers.
Is there anything else are you working on you can share with us:
From the findings of the review, there are a number of areas that we are now working on. These include exploring whether the 5-year classroom training can be delivered online, as is possible for ADR training currently, ensuring there is consistency of training across the wide network of PDP Training Providers, and establishing more regular comms with our stakeholders, including the terminals (the key point of enforcement for the Scheme).
We are also asking training providers to ensure that their training content remains updated and relevant to the sector in which training is being delivered. This training content is reviewed periodically by SQA via their assessors who are now being asked to feedback any concerns they have.
Another major area of focus for the DODF is working with colleagues from the Trade Associations to address safety concerns on forecourts, and via the PDP Management Group introducing specific training for retail drivers with respect to the ACoP L133.
Where do you see the PDP Scheme going in the future?
The sense in the industry is that, whilst we need to move towards net zero and alternative energy sources and fuels, petroleum-based fuels are not going to disappear overnight.
The consensus is that the PDP Scheme still has an important role to play for many years to come. The DODF is looking at the implications of changes in the commercial and domestic vehicle markets and how this will impact the PDP and what changes we will need to make to the syllabus. As part of this forward-looking work, the DODF is supporting Cogent Skills in the development of National Occupational Standards for the transportation of hydrogen.
The DODF has been in existence now for 10 years, which is a testament to the commitment of all it members to raising standards in the industry.
We are looking forward to celebrating 10 years of the PDP Scheme in 2024.
Peter Oakford, DODF Chair
Peter Oakford spent 30 years working in the energy industry, 19 of working internationally leading downstream operations. Peter elected to take early retirement from Texaco/Valero in 2014 to pursue other interests within the public and private sectors. It was at this time he joined the DODF as Independent Chair working with the established team and industry representatives.