In an effort to get more truck drivers on the road, the Government has announced plans to merge the separate tests for driving rigid and articulated trucks, and axe reversing exercises and uncoupling and recoupling from the main test. To free up testers, it will also scrap the need for car drivers to take a separate test to tow a large trailer or caravan. These are potentially dangerous and short-sighted reactions to the truck driver shortages created by Brexit
The Government says 50,000 more HGV tests will be made available because of its changes. However, it is a grave reduction of driver testing standards. For the first time in a generation, it will now be lower than the rest of the European Union’s requirements.
Of course, everyone is concerned about the growing truck driver shortage, which is creating empty supermarket shelves and threatening to blight Christmas. However, splicing and dicing the HGV test is, quite frankly, an astonishing “solution” to the problem.
Merging the separate rigid and articulated tests cuts too many corners. The gap between obtaining a level C licence for driving a standard truck and level C+E for driving an artic existed for a reason: to ensure drivers gained experience before mastering an articulated truck. Likewise, dropping the reversing exercise and the coupling and uncoupling elements of the main test, and farming them out to third party testers, is a jaw-dropping compromise.
Furthermore, the decision to drop the separate test for car drivers to show they can manoeuvre with a larger-towed vehicle, such as a trailer or caravan, will also make our roads more dangerous.
After most “non-skilled” EU citizens returned to their home countries in the wake of the Brexit vote, we warned the Government of a shortfall of up to 100,000 drivers. Those warnings fell on deaf ears. Combined with the Government’s dogmatic refusal to allow EU-based drivers to return under temporary skilled-worker permits, the UK’s entire supply chain is consequently on the verge of a major crisis.
Astonishingly, the Government is still flying the Brexit flag in the face of this self-induced chaos. It proudly attributed this new slashing of testing standards to Brexit. Launching the testing changes, it said: “This new legislation is changing previous EU regulations which the UK is no longer obliged to use.” Abandoning higher testing requirements is not something to boast about, reinforcing fears that the UK is starting on a ‘race to the bottom’ to become the de-regulated, free market capital of Europe.
This is yet another problem that Brexit has created for British importers and exporters. ParcelHero’s in-depth analysis of the ongoing UK-EU trade problems and, in particular, the powder keg Northern Ireland Protocol agreement, can be seen at: https://www.parcelhero.com/research/brexit-study