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The government has announced new measures to help ease the shortage of HGV drivers and has said it will work with the industry to find longer term solutions.

A package of measures was announced yesterday by the Department for Transport (DfT), Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), and the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Faster tests

The Drivers Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is looking to pass 1,500 HGV tests a week and a consultation is being launched on how to streamline the examination process.

Proposals include allowing drivers to take just one test to be permitted to drive both articulated and rigid lorries and increasing the number of HGV tests on offer.

‘Year of Logistics’

A ‘Year of Logistics’ is also being considered as a project to increase recruitment to the sector, which is short of 100,000 drivers, according to some estimates.

The DWP is looking at measures to bring drivers back to the sector and to make training more accessible.

No to visas

As reported in IOE&IT News, the government has extended the permissible working hours for HGV drivers.

However, it has so far refused to move on industry calls for short-term visas allowing EU drivers to work in Britain.

An open letter to the industry from the DfT, DWP, and DEFRA said large numbers of EU nationals have settled or pre-settled status in the UK and are an important part of the lorry driving workforce.

However, it also says the future workforce will need to consist of “people resident in the UK as opposed to specifically providing visas for this group of workers”.

Positive step

Sky News reports Road Haulage Association chief executive Richard Burnett’s response that while the announcements were “a step in the right direction long-term” they didn’t address critical short-term issues.

“The problem is immediate, and we need to have access to drivers from overseas on short-term visas,” he said. “The idea to simplify training and speed up testing is welcome. Along with encouraging recruitment it will only improve things in a year or two’s time”.

Action required

Logistics UK also welcomed elements of the government plan, reports Lloyd’s Loading List, but said it would not clear the backlog of 25,000 HGV tests until January 2022.

Meanwhile, UK Haulier reports that the industry is still waiting for the government to deliver on promises made three years ago of safer and more secure parking to improve the welfare of drivers.