Government to set up fast-track tests for drivers but industry says it's not enough to fix shortage

Thu 9 Sept 2021
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

The government is set to introduce fast-track tests for lorry drivers as it looks to get a grip on delivery disruption ahead of the peak Christmas season.

Plans to streamline the test could shorten the time it takes to become a licensed heavy goods vehicle (HGV) driver by weeks.

Combined test

The Times reports that changes being considered include combining the Class C test for rigid lorries and the Class E test for larger articulated lorries.

Currently, drivers must wait a minimum of two weeks between taking the two tests.

According to HGVT, although the practical HGV training only takes 5 days, the entire process from start to end will take around 8-10 weeks to get the licence in hand.


New drivers are often “buddied” for another few months before taking to the road on their own, Paul Jackson, the managing director of Chiltern Distribution, told the BBC.

“We don’t put newly qualified drivers straight behind the wheel on their own,” he said. “We buddy them up with experienced drivers for the first eight to ten weeks and the insurance costs for new drivers are also much higher.”

No quick fix

This means that changes to the test will not fix the shortage of drivers which is estimated to amount to 100,000 in the UK.

Government action follows recent meetings with hauliers and suppliers.


Widespread supply chain issues, caused by the driver shortage, have hit a range of sectors, including food, drink and medicines.

The Independent reports that the Environment Agency has told water firms they can temporarily reduce the amount of chemicals used for the treatment of waste water as a result of the driver shortage.

More tests, more drivers

The new testing regime will mean up to 3,000 new drivers can be tested per week. As the pass rate is 56%, this would mean an extra 1,600 drivers per week.

However, Richard Burnett of the Road Haulage Association told the FT that the figures don’t add up as the industry is losing 600 drivers a week, meaning it will take nearly two years to fill the gap.

As well as granting an exemption to hire foreign drivers, the RHA wants ministers to make the Driver’s Certificates of Professional Competence, which require testing of existing drivers every five years, less bureaucratic.


Writing in the Telegraph, James Wroath, chief executive of logistics company Wincanton, said the government should also divert apprenticeship funding and fast-track training for young drivers, but added that the government should consider a “temporary relaxation of the rules around foreign drivers”.

The haulage industry has been crying out for this dispensation in recent weeks, as covered in the IOE&IT Daily Update.

No to visas

Business minister Kwasi Kwarteng has so far rejected these calls and today transport secretary Grant Shapps told the Commons that the HGV driver shortage was not a “Brexit-only issue” according to a tweet from Sky’s Paul Kelso.

Shapps confirmed there would be no new visas and added: “We have to stand on our own two feet as the UK, there are a lot of people coming off furlough & I look forward to them getting a job,” he said.