More than 118,000 HGV tests are required to take place over the next 12 months if a skills black hole caused by the pandemic is to be plugged, according to research carried out by the Logistics Skills Network (LSN).
In 2020, just 15,547 professional drivers passed their test, compared to a five-year average of 41,730.
Last month, HGV driver tests resumed but the LSN said trainers were struggling to obtain their full requirement of tests from the DVSA, resulting in a shortfall of 27.65%.
It said if this was extrapolated against the five-year average then there would be 19,908 fewer tests in 2020 compared to previous years.
Based on this shortfall, the LSN said there was an immediate requirement for between 28 and 30 additional HGV examiners, but that even this would not deal with the backlog from last year and so the true number needed to be closer to 100.
The LSN, which represents UK logistics training providers, has previously called for the DVSA to introduce “radical” plans to resolve the industry’s driver shortage, which was already at around 60,000 prior to March 2020.
The organisation cited one trainer, who said: “I’m not sure what wizardry DVSA are currently using to allocate trainer booking allocations, but they are not reflective of our purchasing over the last few weeks or our usage since the reopening.
“I would be interested to know what formula is being applied.”
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Another said: “The allocation teams are a nightmare to get hold of, especially if you need to resolve an issue.
“They also have a nasty habit of putting tests on hold, leading to a three-hour phone call to get the allocation re-released.”
Responding, a DVSA spokesman said: “We are working hard to provide as many driving test slots to candidates as we can, whilst making sure it is safe to do so for both our examiners and candidates.
“Since driver testing resumed the DVSA has increased the number of tests available through extended operating hours, and making sure all staff who can conduct a driving test are doing so. This has helped make sure up to 3000 Large Goods Vehicle tests are available every week with almost 4000 taking place so far.
“The DVSA continues to work with the driver training industry to understand the demand for tests as a result of the pandemic.”
The agency also provided the following information:
• The pandemic has been an unprecedented challenge for us all and the Driver and the Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) fully appreciates the challenges that suspending routine driver training and testing presents.
• Vocational driver training and testing resumed on 12 April in England and Wales, and on 26 April in Scotland.
• The suspension of testing caused by the national lockdown restrictions has, inevitably, led to high demand for tests. The DVSA has put in place a number of measures to increase practical driving tests. These include offering overtime and annual leave buy back to examiners, asking all those qualified to conduct tests, but who do not do so as part of their current day job, to return to conducting tests, and conducting out of hours testing (such as on public holidays).
• The DVSA understands the impact the pandemic is having on individuals and businesses, but its main priority must be that everyone is safe.