Insurers cannot rule out a rise in premiums for hauliers as a result of the government’s plan to speed up HGV driving tests to help resolve the skills shortage.

The combining of the category C and category C+E tests is seen as a way of pushing through an extra 20,000 tests a year, but insurance firms said more drivers with less experience on the roads was likely to lead to more accidents.

Andy Keane, commercial motor product manager at Axa UK, said: “The proposed changes to the HGV driving tests are a cause for concern for the insurance industry, as generally there will be less training and testing requirements for novice drivers.

“Undoubtedly, as the exposure and claims picture evolves, insurers will need to look to mitigate a deteriorating risk.

“Simply raising prices would be a crude response but cannot be ruled out.”

Insurer QBE recently said the test changes equated to increased risk and encouraged operators to use psychometric assessments for selecting safe and responsible drivers.

Jon Dye, QBE director of underwriting, said: “If the actions to address the shortage, whether by the government in relation to speeding up HGV driving tests or by fleet operators reducing training and induction periods, results in less skilled drivers and therefore a likely increase in accidents, we would anticipate an uplift in insurance premiums to compensate.”

However, Towergate doubted insurers would penalise drivers: “What is unlikely to change very much is their attitude towards young and inexperienced drivers,” said a Towergate spokeswoman.

“A majority of HGV insurers, particularly those covering haulage fleets, have traditionally been reluctant to cover drivers under 25 or with less than two years’ relevant experience.

“Time in the saddle will continue to be more important to an underwriter than the nuances of the testing regime.”

The spokeswoman said some insurers could relax this requirement, as a gesture to haulage operators, but that this would mean it would take time for the impact of the HGV test regime to effect the driver shortage.

Axa’s Keane added: “Other options for insurers could be to reduce cover - for example, asking customers to self-insure a significant proportion of the risk but without the option to exclude road traffic liability.

“However, this could ultimately lead to a reduced market appetite to cover the sector and reduced customer choice.”