Driving licence change could let motorists drive lorries without formal test to ease shortage

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DfT proposes using post-Brexit powers to allow motorists to take the wheel of 7.5-ton trucks

Drivers who hold a regular driver’s license could be allowed to drive large trucks without additional testing under plans under government scrutiny.

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This includes lifting previous EU restrictions on the maximum vehicle mass that a driver can drive with a standard B1 driving licence.

The government says by restoring so-called “grandfather rights” it could help encourage more people to consider a career in transport.

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The proposal could allow motorists to drive 7.5-ton trucks without special training

Before 1997, all car license holders (category B) were automatically also granted a category C1 licence, which allowed them to drive vehicles between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes in combination with a trailer of up to 750 kg. However, EU directives limit anyone who has passed their car test from 1 January 1997 to a vehicle and trailer weight of no more than 3.5 tonnes, and a separate test is required for a C1 driving licence.

As EU rules no longer apply, the government is considering whether to grant C1 rating to all category B license holders who have passed their test from 1 January 1997. This would allow anyone with a regular car driver’s license to drive large vans and small trucks up to 7.5 tons without further driving tests.

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Currently, drivers wishing to obtain a C1 driving license must take additional practical and theory tests every five years, undergo a medical check and complete 35 hours of training.

Transport Secretary Karl McCartney said: “Our country has a resilient supply chain and our continued and unprecedented support for the transport sector means the number of truck drivers is stabilising.

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“We continue to look for ways to make it easier and faster to start a rewarding career in logistics. That’s why we’re asking people what they think about how we could streamline the licensing process and remove potential roadblocks – to make the most of our post-Brexit freedoms.”

Other options being considered as part of the evidence gathering include publishing instructor pass rates as part of a formal registry to raise training standards and allowing mechanics who already have a truck license to drive vehicles such as buses and coaches are allowed to drive for repair purposes.

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The UK has faced a shortage of lorry drivers since the Covid pandemic due to a combination of factors including canceled tests, post-Brexit bureaucracy and complaints about working conditions, all leading to a dramatic drop in the number of drivers have led.

Mr McCartney said any changes under consideration “must ensure continued safe use of our roads and be economically proportionate”, adding: “Government does not have all the answers and to be perfectly clear we do not commit to it determined do any of it.”

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