The DVSA has not yet confirmed when it will resume LGV driving tests, leading to fears that the transport industry will soon see a worsening of the driver shortage as no new drivers have entered the industry since the DVSA suspended testing at the start of the Covid-19 lockdown in March.

Paul Spink, development director of Skills for Logistics, is in regular contact with the DVSA and around 150 training providers, none of which have been able to train LGV drivers since March.

“The DVSA announced it was suspending all testing on 20 March until at least 22 June,” said Spink. “The DVSA’s 1,800 driving examiners conduct 75,000 LGV tests every year or around 1,500 a week, so the industry has effectively lost 20,000 new drivers in the 13 week shutdown. This would equate to approximately 240,000 tonnes of lost cargo movements every day.

“What is more worrying is that it is highly unlikely that testing will resume on 22 June and when it does examiners will be doing three tests a day rather than four to enable the examiners and candidates to put on fresh PPE and the vehicle to be cleaned. So the backlog of new drivers wanting training and testing is only going to get bigger.”

Even when tests do resume, priority will be given to key industries such as the emergency services and possibly food and medical distribution, leaving other would-be truck drivers at the back of a growing queue. There are plans to retrain thousands of bus drivers who have been laid off as truck drivers, and while their Driver CPCs would be valid they will still need to take their LGV driving test.

While current legislation allows fleet operators to get their own examiners qualified to carry out driving tests – a practice common in the passenger sector – Spink knows of only four of these “delegated” examiners in the freight sector. “It is possible for fleet operators to employ their own examiners if they complete a DVSA course at Cardington,” he said. “But its costs £7,500 and the delegated examiner cannot test a driver he or she has trained.”

Spink would like to see training providers be able to employ delegated examiners to carry out tests but this would require a change in the law.

“The DVSA already relies on training companies to provide almost half of the LGV examination centres, so it is outsourcing much of its estate to the private sector,” he said. “It has also outsourced the Module 4 practical demonstration element of the Driver CPC to training companies so why not allow the 10% or 20% of the UK’s 540 LGV instructors with the right expertise become delegated examiners?”