Jean-Pierre Liano: The main issue of Romanian professional drivers is the lack of money

Jean-Pierre Liano is currently chief counsel of the largest training network of Spanish professional drivers. Liano is an example and a living legend for professional drivers trainers in the European Union. He was founder and manager of the largest French network of professional drivers training, AFT-IFTIM. With this position, he participated in founding EUROTRA (Euro Transport Training) by the European Commission.

Usually, before performing an interview, a journalist is documented, trying to find out more about his interlocutor. Besides that Liano exists and has an impressive resume, I did not manage to find almost anything about him. He remained unknown. On the Internet there are no photos of Jean-Pierre Liano, so I did not know how he looked like. So, I thought I’d meet a nice old man, with gentle eyes, soft look and wise tone of caring dad, who has seen more and knows as much. A wise grandfather, with whom I would have a relaxed discussion and nothing else. Instead, I came across an impressive man, charismatic, with gray hair, that at first glance I considered him to be the kind of system manager, having the makings of politician and European refinement diplomat. The rest was our effort to make him become more honest and to impulse him not to hide under the polite language of foreign guest in Romania.

You are in Romania for a few days. You are on official duty?

No, personal.

What are you doing here?

I am on holiday in Romania. At the same time, I shall meet again my Romanian colleagues, because I met them at the European Congresses of training experts in transport and then at a transport association that I created in 1990, EUROTRA (Euro Transport Training) . Here, I first met the Romanian trainers. Then I cooperated and worked together, I had a mission for the European Union to the Romanian Ministry of Transport to implement the compulsory training directive and then I cooperated with FATII-ARTRI.

You founded a large European training center for professional drivers, the French network AFT-IFTIM. Then, it was EUROTRA, as you said. Now, you are its counterpart consultant in Spain. Professional Romanian drivers pass, according to the Romanian law, through a training program, after which they take the class, receive a certificate and thus the license to drive certain types of vehicles. What do you recommend to the Romanian education system?

I think the main difficulty for professional training development in transport in Romania is the funding way. Here, mandatory or initial training, or the continuous one are payable by the individual, the Romanian driver. Clearly, this is a great difficulty for professional training development, its cost being very important.

Because the individual does not have much money …

And because this cost is important. To make, for example, the 35 hours of training, then the professional driving practice, you reach a significant cost of the entire training. To obtain driving licenses, in Romania there is the obligation of 40 hours of driving and, if it is done, it is an important cost that people can not financially afford it. In other European countries, there are financing systems of initial and even continuous training, by fees paid by companies or employees, within the financial obligations of vocational training. In Europe, I know the case of France, Spain, or even that of the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, countries where there is funding for initial and then even for continuous training. Surprisingly, in Romania was established the mandatory training, but the drivers are required to pay for it. For example, for continuous training, there are two costs: the training and the availability of driver, which, for a week, he can not work at company. If he can not find financing, things get very complicated.

Regarding the periodic training of drivers: the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure has determined that an examination should be made after 35 hours of training. If after examination the driver is not admitted, he loses the right to be a professional driver. An already gained right that, under a European Directive, should be respected. We are talking about professionals with 20 or 30 years of experience. How do you comment?

It is surprising. In 1995, I participated in discussions about implementing the European directive. France is the first country to implement this requirement. In discussions, employers considered it was necessary to make an assessment. Trade unions said: „No, no way, it’s not possible for an individual who is already a driver, to lose the right to drive”. The directive provided it simply that it was about the obligation of training without examination. It is true that each country can decide to act more firmly than the directive recommendations. Romania has the right to make decisions more firmly than the Directive, but it is a situation, they say, unique in Europe. We do not know how it works in Romania, but normally, in all countries, before taking such a decision, there are negotiations with the owners of the companies and trade unions.

In Romania, the system is strange. Another interpretation of the European directive is the following: if a Romanian driver has C (freight) and D (passenger transport) categories, he is obliged to do 35 hours of training for each category. A total of 70 hours! How do you comment? 

As far as I know, in Western Europe, my country, France, Spain, curriculum is the same for freight, and the passenger transport.

There are many hours of Romanian legislation. Exclusive hours.

Unnecessary, because, as I said, the curriculum is the same. In our case, i.e for Spain or France, we would make two different books, because pictures and expression for goods and passengers are different, but … the curriculum is the same.

In the last two years, in Romania, 200 centers were authorized, their number became three times higher than in the past. Currently, we have over 200 such training centers. Most of them have only business activity. As a strategy, is it better?

There is a system of accreditation of these centers, which, normally, is sufficiently complicated and difficult, but it is true that if a center is approved, you have nothing else to say. The problem is the control for the operation of these centers. In Spain, for example, there are 1,200 centers. In France, for example, it is quite difficult because AFT – IFTIM has 75 centers in the area and another network has 70 approved centers, because the approval is done by regions. In France there is a number of centers that do not correspond with the number of legal training bodies, which are national networks. Maybe in France there are 2,000 approved centers, but there are only 150 training bodies as legal entities. 150 training bodies have 2,000 training centers throughout the country. It seems natural that these centers are distributed territorially, for drivers not to be required to travel …

… From Metz to Marseille or from Bordeaux to Paris, to prepare …

… or in your case, from Brasov to Bucharest. Regarding the 200 centers in Romania, it seems normal to have so many training bodies.

It is important what kind of training perform these centers, how serious is this …

Yes, but if there is approval and control …

… then there’s no problem.

As long as training is required, this becomes an important market for candidates and many small companies believe that it could be approved in order to enter this business.

It’s been four to five years since you came into contact with the staff of FATII-ARTRI. How do you find it, what do you think about the institution at this time?

It made a lot of progress. This training center is good, there is a proper financial base, there are qualified trainers, serious, experienced. I think their problem is a financial one. The difficulty is how to develop mandatory training, which costs more without funding. It is very difficult because Romanians have to pay themselves the training. For example, in France, 35 hours of training costs 300 euros. I don’t know, maybe in Romania it costs half that amount. I imagine that the price is 150 euros. I think there are very few Romanian drivers who can, on the one hand, afford not to work a week and, on the other hand, to pay this amount.

What are, on your opinion, weaknesses and strengths of the driver training system in Romania.

The weakness is funding. For training, trucks and buses must be used. If you do not have means to make necessary investments – for example, a new truck costs 80,000 euros, funds are needed. The weakness is the financial base that is outdated and then, if trainers are not paid correctly, you don’t have high-level trainers. In addition, if the work is difficult financially, you have no productivity. For example, a French trainer performs 160 training days per year, a Spanish 140 days a year, because there is productivity, and many students. It is very difficult not to have  sufficient productivity, because it is not profitable, you have no money for investment. I think this is the great difficulty. As I worked with FATII-ARTRI trainers, strengths are the highly motivated and highly capable people, with good technical experience in mechanical, road safety and legislation.

What should the Romanian government do to improve the level of training of Romanian drivers?

For me, it is very simple: to find a financing system.

Again financing …

There is no other chance.

Finance management.

It is crucial, because without money, the system will not work properly, there will be no quality. Again, it is difficult for the government to impose an obligation that requires high costs, without finding an appropriate financing. If you, as a journalist, are obliged to follow tomorrow an expensive training stage, it is difficult to do this from your salary. Training facilities in transport are expensive: truck, bus, etc. Travel cost for such training stage for drivers, for example, is also increasingly expensive: food, travel and other daily expenses means money, not something to play.

How long do you think it will take up until the training is made by the same standards across the European Union?

There will be more and more training centers. In a liberal system, free competition is the one that guarantees fairness, fair competition, quality, all the quality and the security rules. If we want fair competition, it must be made between companies that comply with quality and safety rules. In order to enhance road safety, fuel economy, energy, training is crucial. When the European Directive was adopted, it was adopted to ensure fair competition between European countries, to have the same training requirements, to reduce energy consumption and improve road safety. They all justify mandatory training. Road safety has increased costs for a country, and also fuel consumption. The guarantee of fair competition and quality products for the consumer is all that is of quality. This phenomenon continues. What you need to understand is that tranport must be safe. As transport is performed on public sector, you must be very careful about road safety and this explains the mandatory training. In addition, a driving license is a driving permit. There is no professional qualification. The interest in training is to prepare young people for an interesting and beautiful job. Here, in France, young people who came to become a professional driver, said: „We are surprised to find that there are so many things to learn about it.” Thus, we found that it was a true profession.

If you were 19 years old and lived in Romania, what  job would you like to have?

Me? A driver!

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