The government has announced that HGV driving tests are to be relaxed in a bid to tackle the UK’s shortage of lorry drivers.
The move has been announced by transport secretary Grant Shapps who says that 50,000 more driving tests will now be enabled so more lorry drivers will qualify in the run-up to Christmas.
The move comes after a consultation which will see three changes being made after HGV driving tests were suspended because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Those changes include:
- By not having car drivers taking a test to tow a caravan or trailer from 20th September means 30,000 more HGV driving tests can now be carried out
- HGV driving tests will now be shorter and the reversing exercise element is to be removed. The uncoupling and the re-coupling exercise for trailers is also being removed and tested separately by a third-party
- Articulated vehicle drivers will not have to get a licence to drive a smaller vehicle first – the government says this will allow 20,000 more HGV driving tests to be carried out every year and enable drivers to enter the industry more quickly with a valid licence.
Increase the number of HGV driving tests by 50%
Earlier this year, the government moved to increase the number of HGV driving tests by 50% when compared with the numbers before the pandemic hit.
But it appears that the government is now worried about the shortages because of a lack of lorry drivers in the run-up to Christmas.
In addition to the lack of HGV driving tests, around 50,000 lorry drivers have left the industry over the past two years because of the pandemic, as well as Brexit.
This means hauliers have been struggling to find drivers to keep trucks on the road and growing demand is leading to empty shelves in supermarkets.
Changes to the HGV driving test system
Mr Shapps says that the changes to the HGV driving test system will help streamline the tests but will not, he promises, ‘reduce the rigour of the test’.
He 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 first test required for articulated lorry drivers
The chief executive of the Road Haulage Association, Richard Burnett, says that removing the first test required for articulated lorry drivers is not going to help the situation.
He told Sky News: “This is not going to solve the problem in the short-term because of the sheer numbers we need, we cannot train sufficient numbers between now and Christmas to salvage Christmas.
“We need access to foreign labour through the shortage of occupation list or temporary visas in order to bring people in.
“This simply will not solve the crisis and this crisis is getting worse by the week, it’s not getting better.”