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HGV driving tests to be relaxed to help lorry driver shortages ahead of Christmas

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HGV driving tests will be relaxed to allow 50,000 more to be taken in an attempt to tackle the shortage of lorry drivers ahead of Christmas, the transport secretary has announced.

Grant Shapps said that following a consultation, three changes will happen to speed up the process after the suspension of tests during the pandemic plus Brexit resulted in a lack of drivers to deliver essential goods.

The changes are:

• Car drivers will no longer need to take another test to tow a trailer or caravan. The government says this will allow about 30,000 more HGV driving tests to be taken each year.

• Tests will be made shorter, with the reversing exercise element removed and the uncoupling and recoupling exercise for trailer tests removed.

• Articulated vehicle drivers will no longer have to get a licence for a smaller vehicle first. The government says this will allow about 20,000 more HGV tests each year and means drivers can gain licences more quickly.

Mr Shapps said the changes will not “reduce the rigour of the test”.

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Earlier this year, the government increased HGV testing by 50% compared with before the pandemic but shortages have continued and ministers were said to be “deeply worried about Christmas”.

In total almost 50,000 drivers have left the road in the last two years thanks to a combination of the pandemic and Brexit, leaving hauliers struggling to keep trucks on the road and businesses in multiple sectors struggling to keep up with demand.

The UK economy’s reliance on road haulage means sectors across the economy have been affected, from supermarkets and restaurants that have reported food shortages, to public health, with delays to deliveries of flu vaccinations and the water purification chemicals required to process sewage.