The Government letter to industry on the shortage of HGV drivers was published on 20th July, and sets out the actions, agreed across government, to support recruitment and retention with the industry.
HGV Driver Testing
The letter acknowledges that the availability of HGV driver testing is key and states that the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) continues to develop measures to maximise testing capacity and tackle the backlog of outstanding tests. The DVSA has increased the number of successful passes per week from 1,150 (pre-Covid) to 1500 currently, by the use of overtime and allocation of additional staff to testing. The aim is to raise this to 2,000 per week in the near future. The DfT is also going to consult about the delegation of off-road manoeuvres as part of the HGV driving test, which would increase testing capacity. They are also considering issuing provisional licence entitltements to drive articulated lorries at the same time as issuing provisional licence entitlements to drive rigid lorries, meaning candidates could move directly to the articulated lorry tests without having to pass a rigid lorry test as well.
Apprenticeships for lorry driving already exist and includes the revised Large Goods Vehicle Driver apprenticeship standard, available from 2nd August. This new version will be supported by an increased funding band of £7,000, and further support on offer includes the Department for Education’s current incentive payment to employers of £3,000 for every apprentice, of all ages, hired as a new employee from 1 April 2021 to 30 September 2021. A second proposed apprenticeship, Urban Driver, is currently being considered for future development and a further new standard, Transport and Warehouse Operations Supervisor, is also expected to launch in the coming months.
The government envisages the future workforce to be developed from those living within the UK and does not see a future in providing visas for this group of workers.
Relaxation of Rules
In the short term the relaxation to drivers' hours, announced recently, is designed to provide employers with increased flexibility and to help ease pressure.
The government also confirms support for the promotion of good practice in the sector, as envisaged by unions and trade representatives.
The Government acknowledges businesses are under severe pressure at the moment and should be adapating business models. It says, "It is going to be critical for the medium term that business practices change recognising the end of free movement, the need for more diversity on the workforce, how drivers are trained and pay and conditions for drivers. Market mechanisms will be the predominant way in which this shortage is resolved."
21 July Update
Urgent Driver Shortage Survey -
Defra has drafted a short survey that asks for details on staffing and HGV driver levels. This is available here:
Please complete this by lunchtime Friday 23rd July. Defra intends to keep this under review and to run this survey on a fortnightly basis from now on.