In the right lane: Lessons from the DVSA

Talent in Logistics Journal spoke to Ian Gainford, Assistant Chief Driving Examiner and Policy Manager at the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), about how to address the growing number of HGV vacancies in the UK.

With 59,000 driver vacancies for heavy goods vehicles (HGV) in the UK, and a driver shortage amounting to 21 per cent across Europe, there is pressure from industry to increase recruitment rapidly into
the sector. However, training and qualifications are required for many of the roles, including HGV and large goods vehicle (LGV) drivers. Pass rates for driving tests have been on the increase for the past decade but more still needs to be done to ensure drivers have the right training to be on the road safely.

Here, Ian Gainford talks about the most common reasons for failure, along with changes in legislation and the impact of technology on driver training and testing.

How do you view the current standard of LGV driving instructors?

The year-to-date pass rate for 2019/20 for LGV driving tests is 58.7 per cent. This reflects a steady increase year-on-year from 46.3 per cent in 2007/08. It also demonstrates how, through working together, we have improved the standards of LGV driver training, while providing an opportunity to professionalise the LGV training industry.

Reflecting on the current HGV driver shortage, how do you think this will impact driving instructors in the future?

We believe it will provide more opportunities for the training industry to work with haulage companies to address the driver shortage and try to make the industry more appealing, especially to younger people. DVSA conducts over 70,000 LGV tests a year, with over 40,000 drivers passing their vocational tests every year. These figures highlight how the service DVSA provides is helping to address the driver shortage.

Three years ago, the DVSA stopped running its voluntary register and started working with other parties. How do you feel this has progressed? What benefits or challenges have you seen?

DVSA’s priority is to help everyone through a lifetime of safe driving. By providing the haulage industry with a workforce of independently examined and registered driving instructors, it will continue to help increase the competence of professional lorry drivers. The higher the standard of LGV instruction, assessment and mentoring, the better drivers will be and the safer our roads will be. It also allowed DVSA to focus on carrying out driving tests, which it has a statutory responsibility to provide. This has helped DVSA to keep waiting times for lorry, coach and bus tests to a minimum.

DVSA values both registers, which have important parts to play in maintaining the high standards of the LGV training industry and we meet regularly in support of its governance teams.

Can you provide some updates on the legislative changes we have seen over recent months?

We haven’t made any legislative changes for several years because of a lack of parliamentary time and competing government priorities. The Office of Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) introduced regulations in the summer of 2018, which allowed Cat B licence holders, who had undertaken a minimum of five hours’ specific training, to drive alternatively fuelled vehicles. Along with support from the LGV registers, we had a part in developing the training after the legislation had been implemented.

Are there any areas in which drivers most commonly fail their LGV tests? In which areas do training instructors need to focus most?

The main reason for people failing a rigid driving test is due to a lack of observations before emerging from junctions, and this is closely followed by the reverse exercise. For articulated vehicles, this is the opposite, with the reverse manoeuvre being the number one reason, closely followed by observations before emerging junctions. We want to understand better why reversing is such a problem so that we can help the training industry improve on this aspect.

How do you feel changes in technology, for example, Mercedes camera side mirrors and automation, will impact your job and the job of the instructors?

Firstly, it is imperative we understand the potential impact of new technology on driving standards
so that we can update or amend DVSA official publications, as well as our training guidance and, where needed, our National Driving Standards. Such indirect vision devices provide numerous benefits ranging from better aerodynamics, better vision of the field of view (for example, there are no wet and dirty windscreens to look through, nor any wet and dirty mirror surfaces), through to a better awareness of where the rear of the trailer is when reversing.

There is no need for a strategically placed cable tie or flag sticking out at the rear, and there is a reduction in blind spots. Instructors also need to remain in touch with advancing technology if they are to be able to answer questions from the more inquisitive trainees.

What are your thoughts on having such technologically advanced trucks on the road while older test and training trucks lack mod- cons? Do you see this as a problem?

There are so many different types of trucks, with varying levels of autonomy, so it would be very difficult to cover them all. Whether you are driving an old or new truck, the driver still needs to make decisions such as when to emerge on to a junction or when, and how much, to steer when completing the reverse manoeuvre or negotiating a turn. Companies have their own induction processes, which are essential when introducing drivers to their fleet of vehicles and equipment. This type of training allows them to focus on technology specific to the vehicle.

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