The testing process for HGV drivers is to be streamlined by government to address recent concerns about the backlog of outstanding driving tests. It is expected the changes will make up to 50,000 more tests available.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has confirmed that its previous proposal to combine the driving test for both articulated and rigid lorry types will go ahead, which the DfT says will help potential drivers enter the market faster and increase the annual number of available HGV driving tests by 20,000.
The ‘reversing’ and ‘uncoupling and recoupling’ elements of the existing test will also be removed to shorten the length of each one, with these two elements now expected to be tested separately by third-parties. Additionally, in a move expected to allow for 30,000 more HGV tests to be performed each year on top of the expected increase from combining the two HGV test types, car drivers will no longer need to take a separate test to tow a trailer or a caravan.
“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,” said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. “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 an HGV driver.”
While Logistics UK welcomed the move in a recent statement, describing it as “very welcome” and noting that the change shows the government is now moving to address the driver shortage, they did express concern about how these changes would impact general road safety. The organisation has also warned that the changes must be fully implemented across the DVSA, DVLA and wider ecosystem of training providers in time to counter the peak Christmas period, if the government wishes to create any significant level of impact.
Logistics UK’s Policy Director Elizabeth de Jong explains:
“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.”
Ms De Jong continues: “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.”