A package of measures to help tackle the HGV driver shortage has been announced by the government.
In an open letter to the road haulage sector, ministers have pledged to work with industry leaders to attract new drivers, simplify training and encourage people to stay in the industry.
However, according to business group Logistics UK, the plan does not deliver on critical promises made to the industry over three years ago.
Elizabeth de Jong, Policy Director at Logistics UK says: “The plans revealed by government only go part of the way to addressing the crucial problem areas that the industry has been talking with government about for years.
“After all the incredibly hard work to keep the country stocked with all that it needed throughout the pandemic, it is dispiriting to see that the safety and security of our workforce in the course of doing their jobs is still not being prioritised.
“The lack of available overnight parking spaces continues to be a huge impediment to attracting more people to join the industry and we need the government to make a far clearer commitment to deliver the 1,500 parking spaces it promised in 2018. Without the safe and secure locations in which to take legally mandated rest stops, it will be impossible to diversify the workforce and attract new employees to the sector.”
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Therese Coffey said: “As part of our Plan for Jobs, we are helping people gain the skills and experience needed to take up opportunities in the haulage sector, including access to key training, and our Jobcentres are playing a vital role in matching jobseekers with the right roles in the sector.”
According to DVSA, almost 1,500 HGV drivers are currently passing their driving test every week and the Government says it is committed to ensuring that new drivers get up and running in the industry as quickly as possible.
A new consultation will be launched to consider allowing drivers to take one test to drive both an articulated and rigid lorry. This would streamline the process for new drivers to gain their HGV licence and would increase lorry test appointment availability.
The consultation will also look at allowing trainers to examine drivers in the off-road manoeuvres part of the HGV driving test and look at whether specific car and trailer tests should be required.
Ms de Jong argues that the plan for more tests and streamlined training lacks concrete targets and timelines:
“It is good to see the urgent focus placed by government on increased HGV driver testing with DVSA, as this is currently the biggest blocker to new entrants entering the workforce but without targets and a workable timeline, this is simply a statement of intent.
“We need to know how soon the backlog of 25,000 test passes can be cleared more swiftly by the DVSA, as we estimate at current rates this will take 27 weeks (until the end of January 2022). We welcome proposals for reform of the vocational driving test process to increase test capacity – but it will take time to make the necessary changes to legislation, and for it to be implemented on the ground before the full benefit can be felt.”
Flexibility for deliveries
As part of the measures, the government has called on local councils to be flexible around delivery times to supermarkets and other retailers, allowing drivers to make deliveries earlier in the morning or later in the evening where necessary.