The Road Haulage Association (RHA) recently published an open letter to the Prime Minister, in which they state that the UK has a shortfall of 100,000 HGV drivers. This is an increase on the RHA’s pre-COVID estimate of 60,000.
In response, the Government has announced an urgent initiative to resolve the mounting shortage of HGV drivers in the UK, including the following measures:
- Hours – The UK government has relaxed regulations on working hours for HGV drivers, from 12 July to 08 August (following a precedent set during the COVID-19 crisis in 2020). This means that drivers will be legally allowed to work slightly more hours. However, this could result in overworked drivers working more hours and lead to more accidents due to exhaustion. At APHC, we believe that the government needs to do more to remove the bottleneck of HGV tests and offer grants for future drivers for their HGV training. Recruiting and retaining new drivers is a more sustainable solution than asking current drivers to work more hours.
- Testing – The pandemic has created a backlog in HGV driver tests. 25,000 fewer candidates passed their HGV test in 2020 compared with 2019. Expediting the process by increasing testing capacity should be an essential part of the wider plan. By altering provisional license entitlement and simplified and single driving tests, the Department of Transport aims to increase the amount of driving tests by 500 a week, and in doing so, streamline the process significantly.
- Conditions – The government is looking to improve working conditions to improve retention and encourage former lorry drivers back into the sector.
At APHC, as we emphasised recently, forward planning and ongoing communication throughout the supply chain is essential to assist with reliable delivery dates and to manage expectations about any shortages or allocations.
Plumbing and heating contractors should also maintain open communications with their customers regarding lead times, possible product substitutions, the need to look at increased stock levels of more commonly used parts and early notice of potential price increases – all factors that are currently arising from the supply chain problems that a significant number of contractors are experiencing.
It is good to see the urgent focus placed by government on increased HGV driver testing with the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), as this is currently the biggest blocker to new entrants entering the workforce.
The appetite to address this problem has never been higher but the fix will require focus and action on several fronts. The idea to simplify training, speed up testing and improve working conditions is welcome; along with encouraging recruitment it will only improve things hopefully in as short a timescale as possible.
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