HGV PROBLEMS: Measures announced to encourage more HGV drivers into the industry
Government measures to deal with HGV driver shortages are “far too little and it’s far too late”, shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon has claimed.
Asking an urgent question in the Commons on the issue, he told MPs: “We’ve all seen constant examples of businesses impacted by supply chain disruption … we’ve all seen supermarket shelves empty and now it’s affecting the delivery of vital medical supplies.
“Industry’s been warning of this crisis for years but the secretary of state has been asleep at the wheel.”
Of the Government’s plans, Labour’s Mr McMahon said: “Not only did it fall short, but it also contained some worrying news.”
He added: “One of the measures would see the reversing element of the assessment removed completely despite the Health and Safety Executive reporting that 25% of all deaths including a vehicle are the result of a reversing strike … What assessment has been made of the increased risk made by lowering standards even further?”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “This is, of course, a global issue with our supply chains adjusting to the impact of the pandemic. We’re working incredibly hard to make sure that consumers get whatever they need.”
Government, he said, had been working with industry “unlocking testing capacity so UK workers can join the driving sector”.
He said: “My department has already increased the number of vocational driving tests from 2,000 a week pre-pandemic, to 3,000 a week, that’s a 50% increase.”
Mr Shapps said he announced to Parliament on Friday additional measures “which will significantly increase the number of HGV driving tests by up to 50,000 per year”.
He said: “First, we will eliminate the need for some car drivers who want to tow a trailer to take an additional test … allowing about 30,000 more HGV tests every single year.
“Second, tests will also be made more efficient by removing the reversing exercise element and vehicles with trailers. The uncoupling and recoupling exercise, having that test separately carried out by a third party so, it’s still being done.
“Third, we’re making it quicker to get a licence to drive an articulated vehicle without first having to get a licence for a smaller vehicle and this will make around 20,000 more HGV tests available every year.”
He added he had instructed the DVLA to prioritise the processing of licence applications and made sector apprenticeships “much more generous”, adding: “Ultimately, many of the solutions for this will come from standing challenges which the industry itself will want to take on.”
Mr Shapps said: “I haven’t actually heard from (him) what he seems to think the solution is”, adding: “This Government welcomes the prospect of better remunerated drivers with better conditions and a more diverse HGV workforce.”
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