The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) is deeply disappointed that the Government has taken the decision to make changes to HGV and bus driving tests.
RoSPA also has concerns about the current plans to remove the requirement for car drivers to take an extra test before being licensed to tow a trailer. Although RoSPA recognises the urgency of the driver shortage, it believes that these changes could make our roads less safe.
The skills required to drive a HGV safely are very different to those needed to drive a car. Enabling drivers to learn to operate a larger vehicle while learning to handle the complexities of a significantly sized trailer could be challenging. In RoSPA’s view, the potential long term risk to road safety outweighs the perceived benefits of cost and time savings associated with removing the staging process of the HGV driving test.
Alongside these changes, British HGV drivers have temporarily been permitted to work longer hours. An ongoing Government consultation is proposing to extend this relaxation until January 2022. RoSPA believes that this move places drivers at a higher risk of being involved in collisions caused by fatigue and inexperience.
Under the new proposals, the HGV driving test would no longer assess the driver’s ability to reverse and couple and uncouple a trailer. These manoeuvres, which are critical to operating the vehicle safely, would be assessed separately by a third party. This is another cause for concern, as nearly a quarter of all deaths involving vehicles at work occur when reversing. RoSPA believes that the DVSA should continue to assess the reversing and coupling manoeuvres as part of the test.
Although RoSPA recognises the urgent shortage of HGV drivers, it firmly believes that road safety should not be compromised to meet this demand.
In addition, the proposed changes would mean that car drivers will be able to tow a trailer without having to take another test. The skills required to couple and uncouple a trailer, perform reversing manoeuvres and tow a trailer on the road need to be taught and assessed to ensure the safety of all road users.
As a result of these changes, employers should anticipate an increased proportion of their workers to be less experienced in driving larger vehicles and RoSPA advises employers to adjust their risk assessment accordingly.