HGV driving is one of the jobs experiencing shortages that will be helped by a £10 million boost from the Welsh government for further training.
Other UK government interventions, such as introducing temporary visas for foreign lorry drivers, together with company initiatives to fast-track HGV testing for drivers in Wales, are also helping to tackle the UK-wide shortage of drivers. While taking action to increase the number of drivers is essential, it is also vital to ensure safety is not compromised. With the use of online training, digital monitoring and in-cab technology, road safety and the security of drivers can be preserved even when working longer afters after shortened training courses.
Monitoring Driver Hours Automatically
As well as making it easier to recruit more drivers, the UK government announced changes to the number of hours existing drivers could work in order to address potential shortages and delays. The new temporary rules first introduced five months ago have recently been extended until the 9th January 2022 and allow operators to drive for an extra hour a day and a total of 99 hours every two weeks with shortened rest periods. When the limits were first altered, unions, employers and drivers all expressed concern about the effect the changes might have on safety. Keeping a strict account of a driver’s daily activity is an essential road safety measure, and all HGVs are required to have a tachograph fitted in order to record the vehicle’s speed, distance covered and driver activity. A digital tachograph is an effective way to monitor daily driving hours and, because its data is processed automatically, it cannot be altered or tampered with. Even having granted extended allowances, advice from the Department of Transport is that the new rules are only used when absolutely necessary in order to mitigate severe driver shortages and delays to essential deliveries.
Increasing Safety Levels with Assistive Devices
The format of HGV driving assessment has been changed to allow drivers to take just one exam in order to be able to drive an articulated lorry. While the number of hours training remains the same, some companies may still like to provide further internal instruction programmes to boost driver safety. This can now be done more easily due to an increase in remote learning and online programmes. With the inclusion of black box software and systems to monitor heavy braking, in-cab technology allows fleet owners to continue assessment of their drivers once they are on the road. In addition, camera systems can help to overcome blind spots to minimise the chance of collision and if an incident does occur, dash-cams provide vital footage for determining cause and liability.
While recruiting more HGV drivers is important to tackle shortages, their safety and that of other road users must remain a priority. Digital monitoring systems and other assistive technology can ensure the observation of driving regulations while, at the same time, help to minimise the risk of accidents.