14 Aug 2022

Government explores options to tackle professional driver shortage as part of ‘post-Brexit freedoms’

Government explores options to tackle professional driver shortage as part of ‘post-Brexit freedoms’

The government has announced a number of options that it is exploring in the hope of addressing a significant shortage of professional HGV drivers.

Set out in a ‘Call for Evidence’ that is being launched today (August 5), the government is seeking views on how to encourage more people towards a career in driving and to speed up the process of getting a licence as part of ‘post-Brexit freedoms’.

One of the main options being discussed is ‘grandfather rights’ being reintroduced. Anyone who passed their test before January 1997 is usually allowed to drive a vehicle and trailer combination of up to 8.25 tonnes. However, this entitlement was removed by the EU, with those passing their test since then limited to a vehicle and trailer weight of no more than 3.5 tonnes unless an additional driving test was passed.

But no longer limited by EU rules, the government is looking at raising the limit for those passing their test in 1997 or after to 7.5 tonnes, allowing them to drive larger vans and small lorries without further tests.

Another option being explored is to raise the standards of HGV driver training by publishing pass rates for instructors as part of a formal register. It will also seek views on permitting mechanics who already have a HGV licence to drive vehicles such as buses and coaches for repair purposes.

Transport Minister Karl McCartney said: “Our country has a robust supply chain and our ongoing and unprecedented support for the haulage sector means that the number of HGV drivers is stabilising.

“We continue looking for ways to make it easier and quicker to kickstart a rewarding career in logistics. That’s why we’re asking people for their views on how we could streamline the licensing process and remove any potential barriers – making the most of our post-Brexit freedoms.”

Driven in part by the Covid pandemic, a huge shortage of HGV drivers meant petrol stations ran out of fuel last autumn. The government stepped in by freeing up thousands of HGV tests, and says the number of drivers is now ‘stabilising’.

Government figures show the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency carried out 29,385 HGV tests between March and May – a 54 per cent increase on pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

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