A Government policy document stated that it was looking at “streamlining the path to HGV licence entitlement”, saying it had already “removed unnecessary staging requirements before testing for driving a lorry and trailer”.
It added: “We are committed to reviewing the rules for driving licences and tests further, including considering changes to licence entitlements, such as those for driving small lorries.”
Alistair Lindsay, Chief Operating Officer at Zeus Labs, said the renewed effort from the Government to alleviate the driver shortage was “welcome”.
It is estimated that Britain currently has a shortage of 100,000 lorry drivers, which has caused disruption to the delivery of food, fuel and other goods.
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“Newly qualified drivers need to go through an apprenticeship/training programme stage, which, at £3,000 to £5,000 per person, proves much more costly for smaller hauliers with limited resources.
“Operating an HGV – from 7.5-tonne urban box trucks to large articulated trailers at over 40 tonnes – is a highly skilled profession that requires meticulous, thorough training.”
Even before Covid, the overall estimated shortage was around 60,000 drivers in the UK.
Some Whitehall officials are concerned that it could prompt a backlash from road safety campaigners over the risks younger hauliers face without adequate training.
“The Government needs to understand this pragmatism and support owner-operators and owner-drivers in ways that reflect real investment in this industry.
“This means not lowering standards but increasing the number of state-funded HGV driving programmes, creating a bursary to support small hauliers in hiring trainees, and passing regulations to ensure insurance companies don’t adversely penalise those fleets with young drivers.
“This in turn would help to stabilise the industry and ensure a more resilient, future-proofed nationwide logistics network, which is essential in driving economic growth.”
Until 1997, once they passed their test, British drivers were automatically entitled to drive heavier vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes.
This was scrapped after the UK adopted new EU licence categories, which saw new drivers having to undergo further tests to drive heavier vehicles.
Older motorists who qualified before this date retained the right to drive heavier vehicles which some have dubbed “grandfather rights”.