Government plan to ease driver shortage is just dangerous

Seb Goldin, RED Driver Risk Management’s CEO

By Seb Goldin, CEO of Red Driver Training

While we welcome attempts to tackle the shortage of HGV/LGV drivers and reduce the DVSA testing backlog, the approach being suggested by the Government in its consultation is the wrong one.

Re-installing ‘grandfather rights’ and allowing newly-qualified car drivers to be able to drive lorries up to 7.5t and minibuses is, quite frankly, dangerous.

Research from road safety charity Brake shows that one-in-five new drivers crash within a year of passing their test – while many of these will be a ‘prang’, some will be serious – and even more so if they involve a lorry or minibus.

The latest data from the Department for Transport (2020) shows that of the 10,338 accidents involving LGVs, 176 of them involved a fatality and 2,060 resulted in serious injury – that’s around a quarter of all LGV accidents which have had life-changing consequences for those involved. The figures are similar for minibus incidents too.

We in the driver training industry may be accused of banging the same drum, but you cannot underestimate just what a dangerous tool a lorry can be in the wrong hands.

Driving is the most dangerous thing most of us do in our working day. So, as responsible business owners, we should ensure our employees are as safe as they can be while doing it.

Simply throwing a set of lorry keys to a new driver and expecting them to go out on the road is not only reckless, it undermines all the strides the fleet industry has taken to reduce risk.

The suggestions made in this Government consultation seem to us to be a knee-jerk reaction – taking the easiest route to solve a problem.

Neither abolishing the C1 or BE towing test will solve the DVSA testing backlog, nor will it solve the shortage of drivers.

We had a similar issue with the Government abandoning the mandatory BE test for towing a trailer in order to free-up examiner capacity at the DVSA during the pandemic.

At the time, we pointed out how essential training was – 58% of drivers failed the BE test on their first attempt, which shows how difficult towing is.

We’ve now gone almost full circle with the launch of a new towing training scheme – it’s not mandatory, but most businesses are opting to invest in training because they appreciate the risks involved.

Educating and training drivers should not be a discretionary activity – it is vital to maintain road safety.

Our response to this call for evidence (and, I’m sure, the voice of the fleet industry as a whole) will be simple – don’t lower driver training standards because the only result will be more dangerous roads for all users.

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