Current proposals to introduce longer articulated trailers to the UK’s roads, coupled with plans to allow car drivers instant access to 7.5-tonne lorries, would create a double-pronged threat to road safety because both schemes do away with essential training.
Seb Goldin, CEO of RED Corporate Driver Training, said: “We understand the need to address the commercial vehicle driver shortage in the UK, but the Government’s approach of simply de-regulating licensing requirements is not the right approach.
“These vehicles require extensive training to operate in a safe manner – we can’t simply do away with the need for training because it goes hand-in-hand with improving road safety for all users.”
Currently, a category B (car) licence entitles holders to drive vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes (and up to 4.25 tonnes for alternatively-fuelled vehicles). To drive vehicles from 3.5 to 7 tonnes requires the driver to pass a C1 licence test.
To qualify for a C1 licence, applicants must currently: have passed their car test, had a medical assessment, attained a provisional C licence, passed a theory test and, finally, passed a practical C1 test.
Seb Goldin added: “Removing these requirements creates a huge gulf in knowledge, which is quite scary when you think an 18-year-old who has just passed their driving test could be handed the keys to a 7.5-tonne lorry. We urge the Government to re-think this plan.”
Separate proposals to allow longer articulated trailers to be used on UK roads also raise serious safety concerns. The Government has said it will allow lorries up to 18.55 metres long to be operated – 2.05 metres longer than the current maximum.
Seb Goldin added: “Is additional training and testing being considered for this move? You need to complete a special test currently to show manoeuvring competency, so will a retrospective test be applied to these longer trailers?
“Is there a mandatory multiple blind spot camera requirement because expecting a driver to navigate and cover all blind spots on this length of trailer is asking a lot of a normal human, especially with the increase in e-bikes and e-scooters in urban areas?”
Department for Transport figures show a steady decrease in goods vehicle casualties since 2014, which there were 6,326 people killed or seriously injured. This fell to 4,735 in provisional figures for 2022.
Goldin added: “The fact that the current system of training has resulted in a steady decrease in the number of people killed or seriously injured in commercial vehicles shows that the training regime is working.
“We saw this race to deregulate last year when the mandatory test for towing was scrapped. It’s one thing to say ‘we don’t want more red tape’ because it hinders businesses.
But sometimes you do need regulation, especially when lives are at risk. “After all, more crashes hinder business far more dramatically than adhering to well-proven regulations. We urge the Government to tread very carefully, and to not undo years of progress in road safety and improving driving standards.”