MPA welcomes fast-track HGV tests in principle
But Association warns much more needs to be done to tackle challenge of chronic driver shortage
THE Mineral Products Association (MPA) has welcomed the Government’s announcement that it will attempt to fast-track drivers into the haulage industry by accelerating testing amid chronic shortages which have caused supply problems.
But MPA member companies, who transport the by far biggest volume of materials in the UK economy – aggregates, concrete, cement, asphalt, and industrial minerals – are concerned that demand from other sectors in the run-up to Christmas will hit the mineral products industry even harder, so more needs to be done to tackle the issue.
Last month the MPA supported the Government’s proposal to allow HGV drivers to take a single test to drive both ‘rigid’ and ‘articulated’ lorries, rather than having to pass a test in a rigid lorry first and then another for an articulated lorry.
The proposal is seen by the Association as a sensible measure to get through the testing backlog faster, provided that road safety is not compromised.
However, the MPA says that fast-tracking HGV tests is nowhere near enough to address the immediate crisis, even if delivered as planned, let alone the longer-term underlying issues that have resulted in an estimated driver shortage of 90,000 (according to Logistics UK) and 100,000 (according to the Road Haulage Association).
Robert McIlveen, director of public affairs at the MPA, said: ‘Our members have been telling us for some time that they are facing a real challenge recruiting and training enough drivers, with many being poached by other sectors once they become qualified.
‘The deliveries that drivers make in our sector keep construction and other essential manufacturing industries going, and if not solved could come to a serious crunch point later this year.
‘With the increase in demand for drivers accelerated by more home deliveries plus the reduction of drivers from EU member states, this announcement from the Government is a helpful tweak, but it is not a comprehensive solution.
‘Much more must be done, including relaxing visa rules for drivers from the EU or beyond in the short term, and longer term by supporting HGV driver training through the apprenticeship levy as well as increasing testing capacity.’