Driving professionals are put through rigorous training and testing to achieve their licenses, should a motorist with a standard category B license be allowed to drive a 7.5-tonne vehicle?
The government has tried to handle the driver shortage in many ways with hour extensions, funding education and fast-track skilled worker visas. Yet, with over 100,000 drivers short, these tactics haven’t entirely made the impact they had hoped. This has left the Department for Transport (DfT) scrambling for a solution to help out with this national crisis. Their most recently proposed solution, however, has flagged concerns from industry leaders and although it could be a saving grace, it could also be a major step back in road safety and come forth as an insult to HGV drivers. The DfT are welcoming businesses and individuals alike to provide feedback on whether people with a category B driving license should also be granted the same privileges as those with a C1 license which would allow the individuals to drive vehicles weighing up to 7.5 tonnes.
The consensus across social media platforms suggests many are not happy with this proposal. With the DfT continuously introducing safety measures for HGV drivers such as the Direct Vision Standard in London, some wonder whether safety matters will go from one step forward to ten steps back. In 2019, 251 people were killed and over 5000 were injured in road accidents involving HGVs. Industry experts question that a proposal to put untrained drivers behind a wheel will surely result in a higher fatality rate. HGV drivers undergo extensive testing to achieve their license and become professional drivers. Therefore if non-professionals were to enter this career without the training, what risk would they be putting upon themselves, other road users and the wider public?
It is not unfair to say the UK’s supply chain is struggling and this change could resolve some of the issues the country is currently facing. It could majorly help the UK driver shortage, support employment for low-income areas and increase the efficiency of the transport sector. The proposed suggestion does bring about its benefits and similar tactics have helped the haulage industry before. ‘Grandfather rights’ have helped to keep the haulage industry afloat. Grandfather rights span multiple industries but have been crucial for haulage, essentially meaning that if new skills or different laws are introduced, those already doing the job do not need the training and can continue their work without being forced to adhere to a different standard. Without Grandfather rights, the industry would surely be worse for wear.
Another factor to consider is professional drivers’ reputation. Previously we have reported how HGV drivers can often and unfairly be a scapegoat in road accidents. With insurance costs ever-rising, operating a fleet is becoming increasingly expensive and for many companies stretching costs further will prove detrimental. With more inexperienced and untrained drivers on the UK roads, claims will only get worse and insurance costs will further increase.
This crisis is one that desperately needs resolving and is negatively impacting the haulage industry. Could this suggestion from the Department for Transport help the industry or harm it? Let us know your thoughts.