A panel of fleet professionals has criticised the Government’s attempts to ease the shortage of HGV drivers by proposing drivers only take one test for both rigid and artics, instead of two separate tests, plus removing the reverse exercise element from the test.

The panel consisted of:

• Paul Hollick, Association of Fleet Professionals chair

• Lorna McAtear, National Grid fleet manager

• Duncan Webb, ISS head of fleet

• Chris Connors, Countryside Properties head of facilities and fleet

• Matt Hammond, M Group Services head of fleet

• Jim Gregory, Defra Group Fleet Services strategic fleet manager

Matt Hammond said: “It’s ridiculous. You need to work up to an artic – it’s an incredibly skilled job and you learn your trade as you go through from 7.5-tonne, to rigid, to artic.”

He added: “The problem isn’t drivers getting through the test – this isn’t a new problem. It’s come because nobody wants to drive an HGV. It’s not a shortage of drivers; it’s a shortage of drivers who want to drive an HGV. We need to review the whole industry and how we treat these guys.”

Lorna McAtear described the proposals as “bonkers”, saying: “I’m hoping the changes don’t come in. It’s a sticking plaster, a reaction not a response. There is no respect for what is an incredibly skilled job.

“It’s hard to recruit young people and females when you have shoddy facilities out on the road. We expect people to work overnight unsavoury hours, not get as much money for it – there’s just no respect. We have to make this industry attractive again.”

Viewers were encouraged to share their opinions on the topic during the webinar. Renny Thomson, a former LGV driver and instructor, now a health and safety adviser, agreed that the underlying root cause of the shortage is “the way that drivers are treated - by the general public and motorists, by the distribution centres where they deliver, by the Government for not having a policy to encourage truck stops and by motorway services not being fully open overnight to provide welfare facilities”.

However, he added that the proposal was to move assessment of reversing and coupling/uncoupling out of the DVSA Testing procedure so that it was carried out by 3rd party training providers. He insisted they would still be tested/assessed on their ability to reverse.

Hammond responded: “For me, the concern is it’s fast tracking the whole process and the experience the driver will get from working through the system. It takes years to get the experience; they are looking to short-cut a system that shouldn’t be short-cut”.

A concern over the skills and knowledge of some trainers was raised by Graham Telfer, fleet manager at Gateshead Council: “Unlike car driving trainers who are on Government Register, HGV trainers are not required to register or have a qualification” he said.

Also debated or discussed during the panel:

• Charge points and the implications of peak time restrictions recently announced by the Government

• Advice for fleets of managing their workplace charging

• Changes to the HSE guidance on driving and riding for work, which has been updated to reflect the rise of the ‘grey fleet’ and the gig economy

• New towing laws – do they increase risk?

• Project EDWARD – why fleets should get involved

• Impact of a new national identifier for vehicles going abroad