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Driver shortage: Major review into HGV driver training announced

Lorry driver wearing a high-vis jacket in the cab

The Government has launched a review into HGV driver training with the aim of reducing the burden for existing and returning heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers.

HGV drivers currently need to undergo five days of periodic training every five years to ensure they remain fully qualified to drive heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) and buses professionally and up to date with road safety standards.

The training is an EU initiative and is compulsory within what is known as the Driver Certificates of Professional Competence (DCPC) regime. 

Some drivers are left to pay for the training themselves and are not paid whilst attending their training course. Feedback from industry suggests this puts off many drivers who have left the profession from returning.

The review will look at how the process can be updated to reduce the burden on drivers – both returning and new – and ensure it does not act as a barrier to working in the sector.

The announcement is the latest in a long list of measures introduced by the Government to tackle the shortage in HGV drivers, which the Road Haulage Association (RHA) estimates is some 100,000 drivers.

Covid-19 and Brexit have exacerbated the issue in the UK, leading to the Department for Transport (DfT) extending drivers’ hours temporarily, before introducing a raft of measures as the crisis deepened.

They included a streamlined HGV driving test, which ministers claim will provide additional capacity for 50,000 HGV tests per year, recruiting more examiners and issuing temporary visas for foreign drivers

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “We’re listening to industry leaders who have told us about the issues HGV drivers face with CPC arrangements.

“Now we’ve taken back control of our own laws and regulations, I’m delighted to say we’re launching a review into these training rules.

“We understand it’s vital for drivers to remain fully qualified – but we’re looking to ensure they can do so in the most efficient way possible whilst maintaining road safety standards.

“No driver should be out of pocket or out of work through no fault of their own.

“This is the latest in a raft of 30 measures we’ve taken to support this vital sector and encourage drivers to return to the job or kickstart a new career in the industry. These measures are working.”

A recent freedom of information (FOI) request from Driver Hire Training suggested that almost two-thirds (62%) of HGV test centres across the UK had a waiting list of at least 11 weeks, with some test centres facing a 24-week wait. 

The research revealed that the average waiting time across all UK test centres was nine weeks.

The highest waiting times were found in Aberdeen, Lerwick and Machrihanish, where there is a currently a waiting time of 24 weeks for a HGV driving test. Cumbria, the Isle of Wight and South Yorkshire were revealed as the UK counties with the average shortest waiting times of just one week.

Shapps said: “There is no backlog of HGV licence applications and we’re seeing over a thousand more people than normal apply for a licence each week.”

Government says that the number of weekly HGV tests available has increased by 90% and training for up to 5,000 new drivers through skills bootcamps has been announced.

The DVLA, says the Government, has processed over 40,000 HGV and vocational licence applications in four weeks, with applications that do not require complex medicals being turned around in five working days. 

DVSA is providing 1,350 more tests than normal a week at sites all over the country, with vocational licence applications being processed in normal five-day turnaround times with no backlogs, says the Department for Transport (DfT).

Over the past three weeks, it reports around a 90% increase in the number of people requesting application packs for vocational licences each week.

Temporary lorry park sites identified

The Government is working with key stakeholders to identify a number of lorry parks across the country where short-term facilities such as temporary toilets, showers and catering can be delivered in the coming months. 

The Government also emphasised the expectation that councils consider new proposals for these vital facilities constructively and has committed to review guidance that will assist this.

This follows the £32.5 million recently committed in the Chancellor’s budget to provide better facilities right across the country for HGV drivers, in an effort to improve standards of roadside parking and facilities for hauliers and further safeguard driver wellbeing, comfort and safety.

In addition, £500,000 will also be added to the existing Mode Shift Revenue Support Fund for 2021 to 2022, in another boost to the country’s supply chains.

The £20m grant scheme provides funding to private-sector freight companies to encourage them to move more freight from the country’s roads to either the railways or inland waterways.

The additional funding equates to taking a significant 29,000 lorry loads of goods off the roads up until the end of March 2022 and will help to generate more environmentally friendly modes of transporting freight, says DfT.

Director of policy at Logistics UK Elizabeth De Jong said: “The measures announced today will support our members in their efforts to attract and retain new HGV drivers to the sector.

“Inadequate driver facilities across the roads network have led to a negative impression of our industry, creating a barrier to entry to our sector and are an issue that Logistics UK has been campaigning on for many years; we are pleased that the Government has listened to our concerns and will move forward with a rapid programme of improvements.

“Logistics UK and its members also welcome the review of Driver CPC, to ensure that continuous education for drivers is as effective as possible while upholding all necessary safety requirements.

“Meanwhile, the extra funding for the Mode Shift Revenue Support scheme will help industry to reach net zero emission targets while reducing road congestion.”

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