Shortening HGV driver tests ‘not enough’ to solve crisis

The government is said to be “rattled” as it draws up plans to tackle haulier shortages by reforming HGV tests.

Sources told the BBC they were relieved that ministers “finally understand the scale of the problem”, but said changes needed to go further.

One likely proposal is combining the tests for rigid and articulated lorries, which are currently taken around three weeks apart.

With a pass rate of 56 per cent, it could mean an extra 1600 drivers per week.

READ MORE: Government holds crisis talks over HGV driver shortage

However, the Road Haulage Association said it would take two years to plug the gap, citing the 600 drivers leaving the industry per week and nationwide shortfall of 90,000 drivers. 

Chiltern Distribution head Paul Jackson praised the “sensible move” but pointed out the new hauliers would not start work immediately.

“We don’t put newly qualified drivers straight behind the wheel on their own,” he said.

“We buddy them up with experienced drivers for the first 8-10 weeks and the insurance costs for new drivers are also much higher.”

He argued that ministers should add HGV drivers to the list of skilled workers who can come to the UK.

Around 14,000 EU drivers left their jobs in the year to June 2020.

Last week, Iceland head Richard Walker said the government was “mad” to ignore advice on creating a visa for lorry drivers.

He noted that ballerinas and musicians could get into the country, but not hauliers, “who have literally been keeping the show on the road through the pandemic”.

Walker also pointed out that training UK drivers would take between six to nine months.

This month, the British Retail Consortium called on the government to “swiftly and rapidly” tackle the backlog of HGV tests and grant visas to EU drivers.

Mainland Europe is also suffering from a drought of around 400,000 hauliers.

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