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It is now official: the government has decided it will not alter its position on HGV training costs despite the fact that the current driver shortage threatens to become completely overwhelming within the next 12 to 18 months. We know it’s official because of a statement made by Department for Transport minister Lord Ahmed in late February (2016).

Ahmed was speaking to members of the Transport Committee regarding the driver crisis when he made his announcement last month. He said that the government’s current policy of not providing funding to subsidise HGV training costs had been in place since 2005 and would not be changed any-time soon. The abruptness and finality of his tone made it clear that the logistics industry is on its own.

The statement from Ahmed was a serious blow to industry trade groups who thought they might be making progress in convincing the government to help. Now they realise no such help is likely forthcoming. Those industry groups, along with the rest of us, are now left wondering why. Why is the government so willing help subsidise university educations and all sorts of apprenticeships but unwilling to go anywhere near professional driver training?

Banking on Autonomous Vehicles

One possible explanation for the government’s reluctance to get involved is that it is banking on autonomous vehicles solving the driver shortage for them. Given the rumours now swirling that autonomous HGVs will be tested on UK roads later this year, this explanation seems rather plausible. Why invest money in training new drivers if those drivers will not be necessary in the future?

Having said that, we are certainly not convinced that the future of transport lies with autonomous vehicles. Last week we wrote a blog detailing a recent accident between an autonomous Google vehicle and a passenger bus in California. In that post, we described why autonomous vehicles are nowhere near ready for widespread use. All of the testing in the world is not going to change that in the immediate future. Therefore, if the government is banking on autonomous vehicles to solve the driver shortage, its plans will ultimately fail.

We Need Drivers Now

The stark reality is that we need new drivers now. Companies involved in haulage and transport cannot wait until autonomous vehicles are ready to be used – if they are ever ready at all. We are currently short tens of thousands of drivers at a point in time when we are also expecting widespread retirements over the next 5 to 10 years.

At the HGV Training Centre, there is not much we can do right now about the government’s policy toward HGV training costs. It is what it is. But we can help you pay for the cost of training through our financing programme. We are one of the only training companies offering financing on every course we teach. If you are interested in becoming a professional driver, ask about financing when you contact us for more information.

Sources:

  1. Commercial Motor – https://www.commercialmotor.com/news/government-refuses-funding-for-hgv-licences

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