The government has revealed plans to streamline HGV drivers’ tests, but an industry body has warned they do not go far enough to tackle staff shortages.
It will consult on plans to allow drivers to take one test to drive both an articulated and rigid HGV, which the government hopes will increase test availability and streamline the testing process. Currently, candidates must pass their rigid lorry test before taking an articulated lorry test.
The government is also exploring whether trainers could examine drivers in the off-road manoeuvres part of the HGV driving test and look at whether specific car and trailer tests would be required.
If these measures are taken forward, an expected 2,000 people could pass their HGV driving tests each week, up from the current capacity of 1,500.
However, industry body Logistics UK said the government’s plan would be unlikely to sold the driver crisis until 2022.
“The plans revealed by government today only go part of the way to addressing the crucial problem areas that the industry has been talking with government about for years,” said Elizabeth de Jong, policy director at Logistics UK.
“After all the incredibly hard work to keep the country stocked with all that it needed throughout the pandemic, it is dispiriting to see that the safety and security of our workforce in the course of doing their jobs is still not being prioritised.”
In an open letter to the logistics industry, ministers said: “These are practical improvements which we think could speed up recruitment and we are seeking your views on them with a view to regulatory changes as early as possible this year. They would provide a more efficient testing process longer term and are examples of changes we could make with the increased sovereignty over our decision-making that Brexit has provided.”
The letter urged businesses to also play their part in attracting more people to the workforce: “We know businesses are under severe pressure at the moment and adapting business models. It is going to be critical for the medium term that business practices change recognising the end of free movement, the need for more diversity on the workforce, how drivers are trained and pay and conditions for drivers. Market mechanisms will be the predominant way in which this shortage is resolved.”
The government plans to work alongside the industry to support the creation of more official lorry parking spaces and improving the standards of existing lorry parks. The lack of availability of good-quality facilities has long deterred many people from joining the industry.
De Jong said: “The lack of available overnight parking spaces continues to be a huge impediment to attracting more people to join the industry and we need the government to make a far clearer commitment to deliver the 1,500 parking spaces it promised in 2018. Without the safe and secure locations in which to take legally mandated rest stops, it will be impossible to diversify the workforce and attract new employees to the sector.”
The government recently announced a temporary relaxation of drivers’ hours rules to allow drivers to make longer journeys where necessary and safe, however Personnel Today understands that some haulage companies have not been taking advantage of the relaxation because they feel it would compromise drivers’ safety.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “I want to thank all those in the road haulage industry who have worked so hard throughout the pandemic to provide such a vital service.
“I understand the challenges faced by drivers and operators right now and while longer-term solutions must be led first and foremost by industry leaders, today we are saying this government is here to help.”