The Chancellor has accepted the Government’s role in solving the driver crisis in announcing a review of driving tests and medical assessments for HGV drivers in his Budget statement today.
The announcement from the Chancellor good news – says the Freight Transport Association (FTA) today adding that it is “pleased that the Government has listened to industry.”
The delays in getting test bookings from DVSA and medical assessments from DVLA were key topics at an FTA Industry Summit held last week in Coventry. The ‘Solving the Driver Crisis’ summit saw over 600 delegates from the freight and logistics industry share their experiences of the driver shortage, and focused on tackling the issue of recruiting and retaining professional drivers.
Both topics also featured in two meetings last month at HM Treasury when a delegation of FTA members met with senior policy officials from the Treasury and the Department for Transport ahead of the Budget. During the meetings FTA raised the problem of driver shortage, and pressed the case for new Government funding towards the cost of getting new lorry drivers licensed and qualified to drive.
James Hookham, FTA Managing Director of Policy and Communications said:
“FTA members will be pleased and impressed that two issues raised at our Driver Crisis Summit have been so swiftly addressed. Speeding up driving test bookings for truck drivers and medical assessments will help us get qualified drivers on the road quicker and more reliably helping industry address its shortfall of 60,000 drivers. We look forward to seeing this implemented as soon as possible.”
The Association was responding to George Osborne’s Budget statement this afternoon, when he said that the Government will review the speed with which HGV driving tests and driver medical assessments currently take place, and will consider speeding the process up in order to help address the shortage of qualified HGV drivers.
The Government will also work with road haulage firms on an industry-led solution to the driver shortage, including looking at the right level of access to, and funding support for training.
In its pre-Budget submission to the Chancellor, FTA had pressed Government for appropriate funding to support for vocational skills in order to help address the current driver shortage problem.
Mr Hookham added:
“Logistics is suffering a huge shortfall of drivers which, if not addressed, will act as drag on the economic growth the Chancellor wants to see. FTA welcomes the moves to speed up the processes associated with getting HGV drivers on the road as excellent news. But solving this in the longer term means attracting more young people to the industry. The cost of acquiring the necessary licence (£3000) acts as a major barrier to many young people and we are pleased that George Osborne will work with industry to ensure funding can be provided to overcome this problem.”
Mr Osborne also announced that the unemployment forecast is down, to 5.3 per cent this year. In addition, today’s ONS Labour Market Statistics revealed that 1,345 HGV drivers were claiming Jobseekers Allowance in February 2015, down 56.6 per cent from a year ago when 3,100 were claiming Jobseekers Allowance.
Mr Hookham added:
“Although this may appear on the face of it to be good news, the reduction in the number of professional drivers seeking work is compounding the current driver shortage between 50,000 and 60,000 HGV drivers and means that companies will have to work harder to find drivers, driving up pay as a result.”
In addition, FTA welcomed the news that the Chancellor has confirmed that the freeze in fuel duty in today’s Budget, but has expressed disappointment that he has not taken the opportunity to boost the economy by reducing fuel duty by 3 pence per litre.