HGV driving test changes risks accident rise, says insurance firm

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17th September 2021

Changes to the HGV test to help tackle the driver shortage have been criticised by insurance firm QBE.

Drivers will only need to take one test to drive both a rigid and articulated lorry, rather than having to take two separate tests (spaced three weeks apart). This, according to the Government, will make around 20,000 more HGV driving tests available every year and mean drivers can gain their licence and enter the industry more quickly.

Tests will also be made shorter by removing the ‘reversing exercise’ element – and for vehicles with trailers, the ‘uncoupling and recoupling’ exercise – and having it tested separately by a third party. This part of the test is carried out off the road on a manoeuvring area and takes a significant amount of time.

Testing such manoeuvres separately will free up examiner time, meaning they can carry out another full test every day.

Car drivers, meanwhile, will no longer need to take another test to tow a trailer or caravan, allowing roughly 30,000 more HGV driving tests to be conducted every year.

There is currently a shortage of more than 100,000 drivers in the UK, out of a pre-pandemic total of about 600,000.

Jon Dye, director of underwriting for motor at QBE, said: “The Government plans to change how drivers obtain an HGV licence comes with increased risk.

“The combining of Class C and Class E tests is likely to mean that prospective drivers have less time to develop their hazard perception skills and research has shown that drivers are more likely to be involved in crashes involving speed and manoeuvring due to poorer hazard perception and familiarity with the vehicle.”

Dye says that to anticipate this risk, fleet operators should do all that they can to ensure that the right person undertakes licence acquisition training.

“Businesses need to recruit safe drivers, but it is often difficult to predict whether new drivers will demonstrate safe attitudes and behaviour on the job,” he added.

QBE endorses systems such as DriverMetric’s Selection Driver Risk Index, which is a psychometric assessment that provides a robust and validated approach for the recruitment and selection of safe and responsible drivers.

Ensuring drivers are buddied up for a period of time, use of telematics data to monitor and manage performance and improve general driving standards, and providing ongoing coaching and support are all key to success, said Dye.

“The supply chain crisis in the UK clearly requires action but any changes to alleviate the pressure must fully consider the adequate learning and development of drivers to ensure safety on our roads and minimise the probability of serious accidents,” he continued.

“Additional risk comes from drivers with a lack of experience and driving hours before being granted a licence.”

Figures from the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) show that the national pass rate for B+E driving tests was 69.6% in 2019/20 and only 58% for 2020/21.

In other words, between 30-42% of people taking this test are unable to demonstrate the minimum standard of driving and competence to tow loaded trailers on the road on at least their first attempt.

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