Hauliers have repeated their plea to government to relax the testing process for HGV drivers as the nationwide driver shortage hits crisis levels.

“We’re close to the brink and so is everyone else,” said Turners (Soham) MD Paul Day. “Are we delivering everything with a perfect service? No. Is everyone else? I don’t think they are. It’s getting worse. In another month it’s going to be really tight.”

The UK now has an estimated shortfall of 65,000 HGV drivers, exacerbated by Brexit and IR35 tax changes driving up driver costs. And Day said an EU ruling forcing applicants to complete a C licence, course and test before C+E equivalents had worsened the problem.

“We’ve suggested doing just one test so you’re not doing your HGV test and artic test separately,” he said. “But the most important thing is to get the LGV drivers back on the skilled workers list. It means eastern Europeans can come in and become drivers.”

In a recent email to customers, Day warned: “Should we see pallets or loads rejected for being late, we will

have to review whether we can continue to service those delivery points as this issue is out of our control. The rejection will be a further waste of resource, which we cannot absorb.”

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Paul Emms, MD of Emms & Sons in Doncaster, agreed (see Viewpoint). “The chronic driver issue is caused by one thing only and that’s the double-testing farce imposed upon us by the EU,” he said. “They’ve really screwed it up with miles of red tape.

“The entire mess requires root and branch reform now that we are out of the EU. This would once again open the flood gates to new, young indigenous blood who may have lost their job due to Covid.”

In a meeting with government last Wednesday (16 June) that also included supply chain companies, RHA chief executive Richard Burnett told roads minister Baroness Vere there was an urgent need for action.

Issues raised included driver training and apprenticeships, Driver CPC, short-term access to non-UK labour, parking and facilities for drivers, and the need to treat drivers and the sector with the respect they deserve.

The government gave a commitment to continue to look at actions that can be taken to address these issues.