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The HGV driver shortage continues unabated in the United Kingdom as we move into Autumn of 2021 and the government is proposing an extra measure in an attempt to combat it. Half-empty supermarket shelves have become something of a norm in recent months, as the crisis really starts to bite and as reported by the BBC, the shortfall now stands at around 100,000 drivers.

Following measures to increase the availability of national HGV training resources that include scrapping the need for separate trailer/caravan tests, the idea of Cat C and Cat C+E tests being combined into one ‘super test’ is about to be put through the commons. It’s a move that’s claimed will allow 20,000 more HGV driving tests to be carried out each year.

HGV driver shortage

According to Transport Secretary Grant Schapps, the changes will provide a fast route for new drivers to be able to drive larger, articulated C+E HGV vehicles – something he was quite effusive about in the official statement…

“We’ve already provided a 50% increase in testing compared to pre-COVID. These measures go even further. They are being introduced following public consultation over the Summer, which saw thousands of respondents, including industry leaders, support the move as a positive step to help the sector tackle the lorry driver shortage currently affecting countries around the world.

Some of these changes will generate additional capacity for HGV tests very rapidly, and we will shortly lay the appropriate licensing regulations before the House”.

The Changes Are Too Risky” – HGVT CEO

While these new measures sound good on the surface, upon further analysis, there are a number of issues created by them. In a recent interview on national radio station LBC, HGVT CEO James Clifford expressed a number of concerns about the efficacy and safety of the newly introduced changes.

Negligible Impact

First of all, he talked about the ultimate effect of changes would be relatively negligible, offering just 100 extra HGV drivers per week. Compared with the 600 per week that are retiring, it represents a mere drop in the ocean.

No Demand For the Change

Mr Clifford also pointed out the fact that only around 5-10% of drivers actually want to take both tests at the same time. Aside from the affordability aspect, it presents something of a risk to candidates who don’t even get a Cat C (class 2) licence if they fail the combined (class 2 & class 1) test in the end.

Most prefer – rightly – to obtain their Cat C licence, drive smaller lorries for a year or two and then decide to do their C+E training with some experience under their belts.

Reduced Safety On UK Roads

The reality of the situation is that these law changes will see largely inexperienced drivers in charge of large articulated lorries on roads up and down the United Kingdom. Whichever way it’s viewed, this represents a significant and unnecessary hazard that could literally cost lives.

It doesn’t pay to cut corners with HGV training, as articulated lorry drivers can be in charge of vehicles of up to 44 Tonnes – meaning that proper, comprehensive instruction is of paramount importance.

HGVT – Doing Our Bit to Tackle the Shortage

While any changes that contribute to the improvement of the current HGV driver shortage are welcomed, they also need to be based on reality and focused on road safety.

Combined tests aren’t the answer, for all the reasons mentioned, however, it seems that this may come to pass and at HGVT, we’ll continue to do our bit to tackle the shortage through the provision of top-class driver training. Are you looking to get your class 2 & class 2 tests together?

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