The government has announced further plans to help reduce the lorry driver shortage, following the vocational test changes.
These changes will create an extra 50,000 lorry tests every year, with the DVSA already delivering 50% more tests than were available before the pandemic.
Ministry of Defence driving examiners
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced the immediate deployment of their Defence Driving Examiners (DDEs) to work alongside DVSA examiners.
MoD examiners are fully trained to conduct lorry tests and will work alongside DVSA examiners providing thousands of extra tests over the next 12 weeks.
Tests will be added to the booking system and candidates and trainers will be able to book these additional tests.
These examiners will be in addition to the 40 extra vocational examiners that DVSA is currently recruiting following a recent recruitment campaign.
Delegated driving examiner changes
The government will also be bringing in legislation to allow delegated driving examiners at the three emergency services and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to conduct driving tests for one another.
It is hoped, the change will help increase the number of lorry tests that can be carried out and will give the emergency services greater flexibility.
It will also allow NHS Ambulance Services and Foundation Trusts to carry out ambulance driving tests for their own employees.
The change was consulted on over the summer and the DVSA will provide further updates on when this legislation will come into force.
Employment opportunities for former lorry drivers
DfT, along with logistics organisations have worked with the DVLA to send nearly 1 million letters to thank HGV drivers for their vital role supporting the economy, and to encourage those who have left the industry to return.
The letter, which will arrive on doormats over the coming days, sets out the steps the road haulage sector has been taking to improve the industry, including increased wages, flexible working and fixed hours. The full letter can be read here. Further guidance on returning to lorry driving is available on GOV.UK.
HGV training courses
The Department for Education will also be investing up to £10 million to create new Skills Bootcamps to train up to 3,000 more people to become HGV drivers.
The free, short, intensive courses will train drivers to be road ready and gain a Cat C or Cat C&E license, helping to tackle the current HGV driver shortage. An additional 1,000 people are expected to be trained through courses accessed locally and funded by the government’s adult education budget.
Fuel tanker drivers need additional safety qualifications, which the Government will work with industry to ensure drivers can access as quickly as possible.
To help make sure new drivers can be road ready as quickly as possible, the Department for Transport (DfT) have also agreed to work with Driver and Vehicles Standards Agency (DVSA) to ensure that tests will be available for participants who have completed training courses as soon as possible.
An additional 1,000 people are expected to be trained through courses accessed locally and funded by the government’s adult education budget.
There are currently five Level 2 certificates in driving goods vehicles available to take. Previously, adults who took these qualifications had to pay for their own licences.
This change will be backdated and applied to anyone who started one of these qualifications on or after 1 August 2021.
Employers in the industry can also take advantage of an additional £3,000 payment until 30 September for every new apprentice hired.
Seasonal Workers scheme
5,000 HGV fuel tanker and food lorry drivers will be added to existing visa scheme and will be able to come to the UK for three months in the run-up to Christmas, providing short-term relief for the haulage industry.
Recruitment for additional short-term HGV drivers will begin in October and these visas will be valid until 24 December 2021. UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) are preparing to process the required visa applications, once made, in a timely manner.
However, the Government reportedly want to see employers make long-term investments in the UK domestic workforce instead of relying on labour to build a high-wage, high-skill economy.
Visas will not be the long-term solution, and reform within the industry is vital. That’s why the Government will continue to support the industry in solving this issue through improved testing and hiring, with better pay, working conditions and diversity.