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The critical shortage of HGV drivers could tempt operators to engage and retain staff who fail to live up to basic standards, according to the traffic commissioners.

In their latest annual report, the TCs acknowledged the challenge facing haulage firms as an acute skills shortage places significant pressure on supply chains leaving them struggling to deliver goods.

But they also pointed out the possible impact on safety standards: “The obvious risk is that operators may be tempted to retain drivers even after retraining and disciplinary processes have failed to import the standards expected of a professional driver,” the report said.

“The regulated industries require new drivers.

“They in turn need to be mentored by competent and experienced drivers who can act as exemplars.

“The current driver demographic presents a real risk and operators and transport managers may be tempted to engage drivers who fail to live up to even the basic standards,” it said.

“It must be understood that whatever the commercial expediency, safety standards must be retained and that the ability to manage an operator’s licence will be put in jeopardy, if they fail to ensure compliance from their drivers.”

The report also highlighted what the TCs described as “a concerning pattern” where trailer maintenance has become an issue, with operators failing to rely on the guide to maintaining roadworthiness.

The TCs also referred to the responsibilities of a growing number of traction-only operators:

“Even though for short-term use, the trailer owner is normally responsible for routine maintenance, including safety inspections, traffic commissioners stress that the operator must comply with the obligations of their operator’s licence, which extend to the trailer, whilst it is being used by them,” the report said.

“The traction only operator and the trailer owner should work together to ensure the roadworthiness of the trailer.

“This includes the operator taking a risk-based approach to ensure that the maintenance arrangements comply with off their own schedule of maintenance and inspections, including regular brake testing.”

Additionally, the TCs warned operators of light goods vehicles to prepare for changes in the law: “If operating internationally they will be required to apply for an operator’s licence and have transport managers for vehicles that have previously been outside the traffic commissioners’ remit,” it said.

“This will also inevitably increase the pressure on the OTC, who are also preparing to implement these changes.”