In 2021 the government introduced changes that simplified the HGV license process in an attempt to assuage the HGV driver shortage. Figures released in August 2020 show that 74% more driving tests for lorries have been carried out between January and March this year when compared to the numbers seen before the pandemic started. For the period of January to March 2020, 15,194 HGV driving tests took place the figure for the same period this year is 26,391.
Among the changes the government introduced was reducing to a single test that would enable drivers to drive both articulated lorries and rigid lorries instead of a different test for both. It allows the off-road part of the test to be undertaken by assessors who are not driving vehicle standards agency assessors but clearly qualified. It has also removed the requirement for drivers to undertake separate car and trailer tests. When the changes were made, the DVSA also recruited a lot more vocational driving examiners so that more tests could be made available in areas of highest demand. They also authorised testers to work overtime, including bank holidays and weekends, to ensure more tests were carried out.
When we hit an HGV driver shortage, the government implemented 33 actions to deal with the problem in order to protect the supply chain. This testing regime change and the introduction of more assessors were part of the solution; they also implemented 11,000 HGV driver training places to be made available through a skills Boot Camp and invested 52.5 million in improving lorry parking and roadside facilities. The overriding purpose of the HGV test availability is to not only boost the number available now but to ensure that the testing facilities remain expanded and available for good.
Is It Working?
According to industry bodies, the measures are helping to recover and stabilise the number of HGV drivers we have available in the UK. They are able to confirm that these initiatives the government has introduced are yielding results, and the perception of HGV driving as an industry is changing. This positive change means that more people are prepared to consider training and qualifying as HGV drivers.
DVSA Chief Executive, Loveday Ryder, said: We recognise the haulage industry keeps the wheels of our economy turning. I want to say thank you to all vocational training providers and our vocational driving examiners for supporting the changes. It’s their hard work and commitment that have allowed us to offer an additional 11,197 tests and increase the number of drivers joining the industry.
Karl McCartney, Transport Minister, said: “The government took swift action and introduced 33 measures to support our vital freight sector throughout a global driver shortage and to maintain our country’s supply chains. Those measures have worked, with the number of lorry driver tests being taken on the rise, and the sector reporting driver numbers are stabilising. We’ll continue to work with the industry to remove any potential barriers to a rewarding, successful career in logistics and to boost and maintain driver numbers.”
Can People Safely Drive a Truck on a Car Licence?
The government has been shaking up the driving license rules, including what size vehicle someone can drive with a car driving test. One of the ideas put forward is that we should allow people to get behind the wheel and drive a truck that weighs up to 7.5 tons with just car driving experience. So what do industry experts think of this proposal?
Generally, Not a Good Idea
A snap poll was held on Fleet News online asking people’s opinions over whether heavy vans and trucks should be offered to those with car driving licenses. This revealed that over half, approximately 53.4% of those who responded, said it was a bad idea. The Association of Fleet Professionals (AFP), the training body for fleet trade, says that if this were to be introduced, safeguarding would need to go alongside driver training. There is a massive difference between a small car and a long-wheelbase truck that weighs over 3 1/2 tons. You have other features like air brakes, and tail lifts to take into consideration, and whilst it seems like a very easy fix for the number of extra truck drivers needed in the UK currently, it could prove dangerous and place a lot of extra work on the employer.
Current Car Licence
A current car license, officially category B, means that anyone holding this document can drive vehicles up to 3.5 tons or an alternatively fueled vehicle up to 4.25 tons, provided they undertake a five-hour training. The license enables them to do this to convey commercial goods. To drive anything heavier, which is where we seem to have a national shortage in the UK, the C1 license is required, which takes into account vehicles from 3.5 to 7.5 tons plus a trailer when needed of a maximum authorised mass of up to 750 kg. This combines to a total of 8.25 tons. At the moment, the C1 license requires extra training and isn’t an automatic right.
Could be Dangerous
One of the reasons why we currently have a separate HGV test is to cover things that don’t crop up when dealing with a car. For example, the C1 light goods vehicle test is an addition to the license that allows the driver to go up to 7.5 point ton vehicles and requires candidates to demonstrate competency with reversing, using mirrors and observation at junctions when changing direction. These are the three most common reasons why drivers fail this test at the moment. Therefore if somebody has had no training in this area, it stands to reason that they will not be able to prove competency.
No Definitive Answer YetAt the moment, there is no definitive decision in place. While we have been experiencing a shortage of HGV drivers in the UK, it was revealed that 74% more tests for the appropriate C1 licenses were carried out in the first three months of 2022 compared with levels before the pandemic struck.