Government reacts to driver shortage: 50,000 more tests promised

London, UK: The government has recognised industry calls to deal with the driver shortage with plans to speed HGV driver licence tests.

Up to 50,000 more HGV driving tests will be made available each year by shortening the application process and the tests themselves, the government said.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in a written statement to the House of Commons, the government would now overhaul regulations to boost capacity so drivers will be able to get a licence to drive a maximum weight articulated truck without first getting licences for lower weight categories.

This is expected to make around 20,000 more HGV driving tests available every year. Shapps said the changes, which still need to be approved by parliament, will generate additional test capacity “very rapidly”.

“These changes will not change the standard of driving required to drive an HGV, with road safety continuing to be of paramount importance.”

The industry is sceptical about the plans, hinted at earlier this week, reiterating calls for temporary work visas to woo back around 20,000 EU drivers who have left the industry – something the government has rejected.

Richard Burnett of the Road Haulage Association said the industry was losing 600 drivers a week and it would take nearly two years to fill the net shortfall.

Logistics UK welcomed the increase in testing capacity but said these promises need to be implemented quickly if they are to make significant difference to the current shortage in time for Christmas.

Elizabeth de Jong, policy director, Logistics UK said the impact of today’s measures is unlikely to make a significant difference on the driver shortage if they cannot be implemented itime to apply the changes and adapt their operations in time for the industry’s Christmas peak, with DVSA, DVLA and the wider training industry needing time to apply the changes and adapt their operations.”

She also warned of safety implications of the change. “Logistics UK had strongly voiced our concerns about the proposed abolition of the B+E driver category, as this could pose a risk to road safety. However, Logistics UK has been assured that there will be a package of safety mitigation measures introduced; we will be working with government to ensure safety is prioritised.”  

“This is a sensible move but it’s not enough to fix the problem,” Paul Jackson, managing director, Chiltern Distribution, told the BBC on Thursday.

“We don’t put newly-qualified drivers straight behind the wheel on their own. We buddy them up with experienced drivers for the first eight to 10 weeks and the insurance costs for new drivers are also much higher.

“We desperately need to put HGV drivers on the list of skilled workers we can bring in from abroad, Jackson said.

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In the August issue of Cold Chain News, out now, Gist reveals that it is offering incentives of up to £5,000 for HGV drivers to join its business from August in order to boost capability and resources to deliver chilled foods and fresh produce. bit.ly/3z6j8Si #coldchain

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