Up to 50,000 more HGV driving tests will be made available each year thanks to government action to streamline the testing process and tackle the worldwide lorry driver shortage.
HGV driving tests will be overhauled, meaning drivers will only need to take one test to drive both a rigid and articulated lorry, rather than having to take two separate tests (spaced 3 weeks apart). This will make around 20,000 more HGV driving tests available every year and mean drivers can gain their licence and enter the industry more quickly.
Tests will also be made shorter by removing the ‘reversing exercise’ element – and for vehicles with trailers, the ‘uncoupling and recoupling’ exercise – and having it tested separately by a third party. This part of the test is carried out off the road on a manoeuvring area and takes a significant amount of time. Testing such manoeuvres separately will free up examiner time, meaning they can carry out another full test every day.
Car drivers will no longer need to take another test to tow a trailer or caravan, allowing roughly 30,000 more HGV driving tests to be conducted every year.
This new legislation is changing previous EU regulations which the UK is no longer obliged to use.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “From Inverness to St Ives, HGV drivers are helping to keep the country running, and have been throughout the pandemic. The shortage of drivers is a global problem, but we’ve been taking action here in the UK to help industry leaders attract drivers and build a more resilient sector.
“We’ve already delivered 50% more tests than were available before the pandemic, but today’s additional measures will deliver up to 50,000 more a year, helping more and more people to kickstart their career as a well-paid HGV driver.”
The changes follow a public consultation over the summer, which saw thousands of respondents, including industry leaders, support the move as a positive step to help the sector tackle the lorry driver shortage currently affecting countries around the world.
The standard of driving required to drive an HGV will not be affected, with road safety continuing to be of paramount importance. Any driver who does not demonstrate utmost competence will not be granted a licence. All car drivers will also still be encouraged to undertake training to tow trailers and caravans.
The driver shortage is a widespread problem affecting countries across Europe and also the United States, caused by a range of factors, including an ageing workforce. Today’s announcement will ramp up driver testing and numbers and help industry leaders build a resilient UK haulage sector which attracts drivers from across society.
Shapps told MPs that the driver shortage was not caused by Brexit and was a problem created by Covid-19: “To say that this is just a Brexit issue is completely untrue; it is about coronavirus,” he said.
Jon Dye, Director of Underwriting – Motor at QBE: “Whilst recognising the current driver shortage crisis, the government plans to change how drivers obtain an HGV licence comes with increased risk. The combining of Class C and Class E tests is likely to mean that prospective drivers have less time to develop their hazard perception skills and research has shown that drivers are more likely to be involved in crashes involving speed and manoeuvring due to poorer hazard perception and familiarity with the vehicle.”
“To anticipate this risk, fleet operators should do all that they can to ensure that the right “person” undertakes licence acquisition training. Businesses need to recruit safe drivers, but it is often difficult to predict whether new drivers will demonstrate safe attitudes and behaviour on the job. QBE endorses systems such as DriverMetric’s Selection Driver Risk Index™, which is a psychometric assessment that provides a robust and validated approach for the recruitment and selection of safe and responsible drivers. Ensuring drivers are “buddied up” for a period of time, use of telematics data to monitor and manage performance and improve general driving standards, and providing ongoing coaching and support are all key to success.”
“The supply chain crisis in the UK clearly requires action but any changes to alleviate the pressure must fully consider the adequate learning and development of drivers to ensure safety on our roads and minimise the probability of serious accidents. Additional risk comes from drivers with a lack of experience and driving hours before being granted a licence.”