HGV driving test waiting times
The haulage industry in the UK seems rife with contradictions.
If some of the more recent media reports are anything to go by, the latest example of this is an increase in the time you need to wait before taking an HGV driving test and the much vaunted national shortage of qualified drivers.
Let’s look at these contrary themes, starting with the industry-wide shortage of professional drivers.
For a number of years, industry lobbyists the Freight Transport Association (FTA) has been warning of the declining number of professionally qualified HGV drivers – more people are leaving the industry than new ones joining it.
The sentiment was echoed by other spokesmen for the industry, the Road Haulage Association (RHA), whose chairman led a petition to Downing Street in June this year complaining about the “chronic shortage” of HGV drivers and calling for the government to fund the training of new drivers.
A report by the BBC at the same time of the year explained some of the reasons for the shortage:
- the age profile – with approximately one half of all drivers already aged more than 50 and 13,000 of them over 65 – means that a large proportion of the workforce is looking forward to retirement;
- many of these may have been encouraged to take even earlier retirement in order to avoid the newly introduced rules requiring 35 hours of driver training every five years in order to maintain the validity of the driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC);
- whilst the number of leavers is rising, the number of those entering the profession is also at an all time low with new applications for an HGV licence falling by more than 32,000 in the five years to June of 2015;
- potential new recruits are likely to be put off from entering the industry because of the high cost of training and earning their HGV licence – an average cost of between £3,000 and £5,000, according to the RHA.
As a result of these trends, in the first half of this year the industry was reporting a driver shortage of some 45,000.
Against this background of shortages and the need to recruit new drivers to the industry, waiting times for HGV driving tests have risen by an average two-thirds (from just over 3 weeks to nearly four and a half weeks), according to a report by Commercial Motor on the 5th of October.
It seems that despite the industry’s long term warnings about the decline in driver numbers and the urgent need to boost them, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency – which is responsible for HGV driver testing – has failed to ensure there are enough driving examiners to meet any increase in the demand for driving tests.
And all this at a time when – according to delivery service Downton on the 5th of October – there was in fact a 40% spike in the number of newly qualified HGV drivers in the first quarter of the year.