Government plans to shorten HGV driver testing process amid ongoing crisis

The UK government is expected to announce an overhaul of the HGV (heavy goods vehicle) driver testing processes in an effort to tackle the crisis.

Hauliers, government officials and suppliers met to resolve the shortage that is crippling retailers up and down the country.

During the meetings the “penny finally dropped” that the driver shortage was deteriorating and not improving, the BBC reported.

Meetings with the groups affected are still ongoing.

The HGV shortage has had a widespread impact on some of the UK’s most important sectors including food and drink and medicines.

“The government seem to finally understand the scale of the problem. For the first time they looked rattled”, industry sources told the BBC.

The overhaul is expected to mean that the Class C test that is currently used for rigid lorries and the Class E test used for bigger articulated lorries are combined into one test.

At the moment there is a two or three-week minimum period between taking the two tests.

A cocktail of post-Brexit exodus of drivers, a retiring workforce and the pandemic has meant that there has been a delay to testing new drivers.

READ MORE: UK HGV drivers are now being offered £57k a year as crisis pushes up pay “substantially”

While the haulage industry has welcomed the move, it has said that it is still not enough to fill the gaping holes that remain in supply chains.

Industry leaders have called for the government to be added to the Shortage Occupation List which would mean companies are able to bring back some of the estimated 20,000 EU drivers that have left the industry, to work on a temporary basis.

“This is a sensible move but it’s not enough to fix the problem,” Chiltern Distribution managing director Paul Jackson said.

“We don’t put newly qualified drivers straight behind the wheel on their own. We buddy them up with experienced drivers for the first 8-10 weeks and the insurance costs for new drivers are also much higher.

“We desperately need to put HGV drivers on the list of skilled workers we can bring in from abroad.”

The Chemical Business Association, which represents chemical firms claimed that chemicals were not getting through to water companies.

The association’s chief executive Tim Doggett added: “The supply chain situation in the UK is deteriorating.”

Data from the industry group claims that 96 per cent of member companies are now experiencing trouble with UK haulage, a figure which has jumped from 63 per cent from June this year.

If the new plans are given the green light, it could mean up to 1,600 more drivers per week.

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