The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) must maintain its rapid programme of vocational driver tests, according to business group Logistics UK, if it is to overcome the backlog of outstanding tests which threatens to derail the UK’s highly interconnected supply chain, due to a shortage of drivers.
Speaking after a meeting with new DVSA Chief Executive Loveday Ryder, Logistics UK’s Chief Executive David Wells was encouraged by progress made so far by the agency, but warned that there is still much work to be done:
“While DVSA is now delivering vocational tests at around double its pre-pandemic weekly volumes, I queried whether this is sustainable under the organisation’s current set up. More than 30,000 LGV driving tests did not take place between March and December 2020, with even more cancelled during the lockdown at the start of 2021, meaning that potential employees have been denied entry to their chosen profession at a time when logistics businesses need them urgently.
“It is vital that DVSA maintains the testing rates which have been achieved in the past couple of weeks, but this is a marathon, not a sprint. The volumes of outstanding tests are preventing at the very least 15,000 applicants with successful passes from joining the sector at a time when our supply chain desperately needs their skills.”
As Mr Wells continues, Logistics UK has raised concerns about the sustainability of testing volumes without applying more innovative solutions, such as expanding existing delegated testing. Without a testing solution, he warns, alongside support for businesses taking on new drivers, breaks in the supply chain may become likely as the industry struggles to recruit new drivers, as well as replacements for EU workers who have returned home after Brexit:
“Logistics has suffered from a skills shortage for some time, but with the loss of our EU nationals, the situation has now become acute, with more than 76,000 drivers needed by our sector. Restarting testing and catching up with the backlog of outstanding driving tests is the single biggest step that can be taken to fill some of the industry’s vacancies, but employers – whose turnover has been hit hard by the pandemic – need more support, such as interest free loans or grants, to help cover the costs of driver training, which can run to thousands of pounds.
“The Apprenticeships scheme also needs an urgent overhaul, to make the qualifications on offer more business friendly, and to increase the funding band for the new HGV Driver apprenticeship standard. Without these changes, our sector will find it increasingly difficult to deliver for customers right across the economy.”