The Department for Transport (DoT) has launched a government consultation on the driver licensing process, aimed at resolving the shortage of HGV drivers.
Announced today (5 August), the government is looking for evidence on the benefits of changing the current drivers’ licence programme – namely, reducing a pre-Brexit EU requirement for achieving a C1 licence to drive anything larger than a 3.5-ton vehicle.
With the shortage of HGV drivers a major cause of supply chain issues, the government said the DoT hopes that widening the recruitment driver pool would strengthen supply chains and boost economic growth.
The Daily Telegraph headlined the story as "Motorists could be allowed to drive lorries without extra test in ‘Brexit bonus’ plan".
Currently, there is a ban on motorists driving anything heavier than a 3.5-ton vehicle without a special licence (known as a C1 licence).
This ban was imposed by the EU prior to Brexit, although it does not apply to driving licences granted before 1997.
As it stands, a C1 licence – which allows the driver to pilot a vehicle weighing up to 7.5 tons – requires medical assessments, a renewal every five years (with a signed health report for anyone over 45 years-old) and has additional practical and theory tests from a normal driving licence.
The DoT has mentioned specific areas it is looking for evidence on, including:
- Whether to grant drivers who have with an ordinary licence additional entitlement to a C1 licence
- Whether to grant drivers who have an ordinary licence, entitlement to a minibus licence
- The creation of a formalised instructor programme or training, and how this could be made compulsory, as well as the creation of a formal register of instructors, with published pass rates
The Express reports that transport secretary Grant Shapps, in a letter to MPs, wrote: “It has been suggested that now the UK has left the European Union, we may wish to allow all car drivers – not just those who passed their test before Jan 1, 1997 – the right to drive these larger vehicles without the need for a further test.
“Changes to the licensing categories would potentially create a greater pool of drivers,” he added.
“I am quite happy to explore this idea and how this may work in reality – without making any commitments to legislative change at this stage.”
A government source told The Telegraph that: “Grant thinks we should have a fresh look at this, but of course this has to be done with due regard for safety.”
The call for evidence period will begin today and will run until 28 October.