The UK government yesterday (8 November) announced a 'sweeping review' seeking to improve compulsory ongoing training for HGV and bus drivers, in the latest of 30 measures designed to support the road haulage sector and encourage even more people to return to the profession.
Drivers currently need to undergo five days of periodic training every five years to ensure they remain fully qualified to drive heavy goods vehicles and buses professionally and up to date with road safety standards.
This training is an EU initiative and is compulsory within what is known as the Driver Certificates of Professional Competence (DCPC) regime.
While its aim is to keep standards high, some drivers are left to pay for the training themselves and are not paid whilst attending their training course. Feedback from industry suggests this puts off many drivers who have left the profession from returning.
The review said its review will look at how the process can be updated to reduce the burden on drivers – both returning and new – and ensure it doesn’t act as a barrier to working in the sector, as the government continues to bolster supply chains and tackle the global driver shortage here in the UK.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: 'We’re listening to industry leaders who have told us about the issues HGV drivers face with CPC arrangements. Now we’ve taken back control of our own laws and regulations, I’m delighted to say we’re launching a review into these training rules.
'We understand it’s vital for drivers to remain fully qualified – but we’re looking to ensure they can do so in the most efficient way possible whilst maintaining road safety standards. No driver should be out of pocket or out of work through no fault of their own.
'This is the latest in a raft of 30 measures we’ve taken to support this vital sector and encourage drivers to return to the job or kickstart a new career in the industry. These measures are working – there is no backlog of HGV licence applications and we’re seeing over a thousand more people than normal apply for a licence each week.'
In a further move to encourage more people back to the sector and attract new recruits, the government is working with key stakeholders to identify a number of lorry parks across the country where short-term facilities such as temporary toilets, showers and catering can be delivered in the coming months.
The government also emphasised the expectation that councils consider new proposals for these vital facilities constructively and has committed to review guidance that will assist this.
This follows the £32.5 million recently committed in the Chancellor’s budget to provide better facilities right across the country for HGV drivers, which will drive up standards of roadside parking and facilities for our hauliers and further safeguard driver wellbeing, comfort and safety.
£500,000 will also be added to the existing Mode Shift Revenue Support Fund for 2021 to 2022, in another boost to the country’s supply chains. This £20 million grant scheme provides funding to private-sector freight companies to encourage them to move more freight from the country’s roads to either the railways or inland waterways.
The additional funding equates to taking a significant 29,000 lorry loads of goods off the roads up until the end of March 2022 and will help to generate more environmentally friendly modes of transporting freight.
Director of Policy at Logistics UK Elizabeth De Jong said: 'The measures announced today (8 November) will support our members in their efforts to attract and retain new HGV drivers to the sector. Inadequate driver facilities across the roads network have led to a negative impression of our industry, creating a barrier to entry to our sector and are an issue that Logistics UK has been campaigning on for many years; we are pleased that the government has listened to our concerns and will move forward with a rapid programme of improvements.
'Logistics UK and its members also welcome the review of Driver CPC, to ensure that continuous education for drivers is as effective as possible while upholding all necessary safety requirements. Meanwhile, the extra funding for the Mode Shift Revenue Support scheme will help industry to reach net zero emission targets while reducing road congestion.
'Among other measures already taken to support the haulage industry, the testing process has been streamlined, the number of weekly HGV tests available has increased by 90 per cent and training for up to 5,000 new drivers through skills bootcamps has been announced.
'The DVLA has processed over 40,000 HGV and vocational licence applications in just four weeks, with applications that don’t require complex medicals being turned around in just five working days. DVSA is providing 1,350 more tests than normal a week at sites all over the country.
'These measures are working. Not only are vocational licence applications being processed in normal 5-day turnaround times with no backlogs, over the past 3 weeks, we’ve seen around a 90% increase in the number of people requesting application packs for vocational licences each week.'