Heel-dragging at the top of government has meant that some HGV drivers critical to Britain’s response to the Covid 19 crisis have been forced to stop work altogether, according to the UK’s leading business organisation representing the logistics industry.
FTA, the biggest association in the sector, says that ever since GP practices have restricted the patients they can see, truck drivers requiring a health certificate have been being turned away from surgeries. This is preventing drivers from submitting their driving licence renewal applications and thus making them ineligible to drive at the time when the nation is in greatest need of their services to move food to supermarkets and medicines and critical PPE to hospitals, pharmacies and, of course, GP surgeries.
“We know that a workaround for the issue of driver medicals has been devised by the Department for Transport and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency,” says Elizabeth de Jong, FTA’s policy director, “and that that proposal was agreed by a committee of the Cabinet over a week ago. But for some reason government is not making the announcement and this is leaving drivers and businesses unable to deliver for their customers and the wider economy.
“From the day GP surgeries started restricting who could attend – which was before the national lockdown – HGV operators have been telling us that they have drivers who can’t renew their driving licence because they can’t get a medical. FTA has been pressing the point with government as a matter of urgency and we were advised that a solution to the problem was agreed at Cabinet level last Tuesday.
“The situation is now critical: operators are having to stand down experienced and well-trained drivers just because somewhere high up in government the announcement is not being given “a slot on the grid” – the communications management process in No10 which coordinates all Government announcements. Bureaucracy should not be hindering the ability of logistics businesses to carry out their daily tasks, delivering for their customers right across the country.”
FTA advises that one in three calls to its member advice line is now from operators who have drivers who cannot drive or soon will not be able to, because they cannot get a medical to support their licence renewal.
“Government needs to prioritise this announcement for the health of the nation’s supply chain and the wider economy,” says Ms de Jong. “Seemingly, the only thing stopping it is red tape, something which government could easily cut.”
By law, HGV drivers are required to make a self-declaration of health when they renew their driving licence every five years, up to the first renewal after they turn 45. After that, a driver is required to visit a doctor to perform a medical examination and provide a certificate of health (known as form D4).