Up to 50,000 more HGV driving tests will be made available each year it has been announced today, as the government continues to battle the lorry driver shortage.
The news has been welcomed by Logistics UK, one of the UK’s leading business groups in the sector.
Elizabeth de Jong, Policy Director at Logistics UK, said: ““With access to tests a key barrier to recruits wishing to join the occupation, the government’s measures to speed up the process of qualifying as an HGV driver – including the removal of staged testing and allowing authorised private sector examiners to undertake parts of the examination – will increase testing capacity significantly and have a positive effect in the longer-term. However, the impact of today’s measures is unlikely to make a significant difference on the driver shortage if they cannot be implemented 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 added: “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.”
(Category B+E is for car drivers who want to tow a trailer with their car.)
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 three 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.
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.
This new legislation is changing previous EU regulations which the UK is no longer obliged to use.
According to the Road Haulage Association, around 40,000 HGV driver tests were cancelled last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. While testing has now resumed, the pace of the tests remains too slow given the shortage of HGV drivers currently causing problems across the UK.
Last week it was announced that, after relentless campaigning from the RHA, the Urban Driver Cat C Apprenticeship scheme has been been given the go-ahead by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, providing a new training option for drivers of rigid HGVs.
This new standard will give apprentices the skills needed to drive a Cat C or C1 vehicle through the urban road network and allow them to gain their C or C1 licence, and will make it easier to get much-needed lorry drivers on the road.