UK Government announces new measures to tackle HGV driver shortage
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The UK Government has announced a number of new measures it hopes will help to alleviate the country’s HGV driver shortage. Despite much lobbying from industry organisations such as the RHA, the list of new measures does not include a visa scheme for foreign drivers.
The first measure listed by the government in its statement is a new consultation on allowing drivers to take one test to drive both an articulated and rigid lorry.
The government says this would streamline the process for new drivers to gain their HGV licence and would increase lorry test appointment availability. It also adds that the consultation “will ensure road safety is paramount and set out that drivers will still be supervised until fully qualified.”
In addition, the consultation is to look at allowing trainers to actually 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. This, it is argued, will allow a significant increase in the number of HGV driving tests to be conducted whilst maintaining road safety standards.
According to its statement, the government also plans to help the road haulage industry improve the working conditions of drivers, something it believes is “key to addressing the shortage and encouraging British workers to forge long, successful careers in the sector.”
In order to achieve this, the government states it will “work alongside the industry to support more official parking spaces for lorry drivers and look at ways to improve the standard of lorry parks.”
Another idea the government wishes to discuss with the logistics sector is an “industry-led Year of Logistics,” that would look at “various other ways to attract more people to join the industry from all parts of society.”
On top of that, the Department for Work and Pensions says it will continue to encourage those who have already left the industry to re-join. It has confirmed it is developing a new driver training pilot through Jobcentre Plus to bring job-seekers into the industry.
Finally, the government has also 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.
Although all of the above measures could help in the long run, the lack of any measures to alleviate the driver shortage issue quickly has disappointed the RHA, who has called on the government to make it easier for hauliers to employ foreign drivers (at least on a temporary basis).
Government plans to tackle the HGV driver shortage won’t help firms in the short-term but the RHA says the crisis is so great it needs immediate short-term measures allowing the industry to work towards the longer-term fixes. @RHARichardB https://t.co/BTckSgv9JE pic.twitter.com/PP9XosXPBO
— RHA News (@RHANews) July 20, 2021
Commenting on the government’s announcement, RHA Chief Executive Richard Burnett had the following to say:
“This is a step in the right direction long-term, but it doesn’t address the critical short-term issues we’re facing. The problem is immediate, and we need to have access to drivers from overseas on short-term visas. The idea to simplify training and speed up testing is welcome; along with encouraging recruitment it will only improve things in a year or two’s time.”
The RHA adds that it continues to call on ministers to put HGV drivers on the Home Office Shortage Occupation List. Earlier this month, such a measure appeared to be a possibility; a report had emerged of “secret talks” between the Department for Transport and the Home Office regarding visas for lorry drivers. The report nonetheless stressed that the Home Office were extremely reluctant to allow such a visa scheme, and it now appears that Priti Patel’s department have been able to shoot down the idea.
As for the thoughts of HGV drivers themselves, comments in Facebook groups suggest that some are unimpressed by the government’s plan to make the testing procedure easier and more streamlined. Others have described the measures as “hot air”, which many may consider a fair comment given the government’s statement provided no clarity or commitments on how many parking spaces would be built or what kind of standard lorry parks would be upgraded to.