'Brexit bonus' plan could allow Britons to drive lorries without taking extra test

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has launched a consultation on allowing motorists to drive lorries without taking an extra test to address a shortage in HGV drivers

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Transport secretary Grant Shapps has launched a consultation on whether British motorists should be allowed to drive lorries without an extra test in a "Brexit bonus plan".

In rules dictated by Brussels, Brits were banned from driving anything larger than a 3.5 ton vehicle.

This ruled out a lot of vans and lorries, as well as minibuses with up to 16 seats.

Over the last year, a lack of HGV drivers has created a bottleneck in the supply chain, leading to fuel shortages at petrol pumps and empty shelves in major supermarkets.

And Mr Shapps believes loosening the restrictions around driving HGVs could increase the pool of drivers and address a shortage of employees.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, arrives for a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street, London
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, arrives for a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street, London

A government source told the Telegraph: “We are past the days when EU directives were handed down on tablets of stone, and we should be prepared to liberalise where we can, testing the necessity for maintaining driving restrictions that were once thought unnecessary in this country.

“Grant thinks we should have a fresh look at this, but of course this has to be done with due regard for safety.”

Before 1997, anyone with a full driving licence could drive vehicles of up to 7.5 tons.

Lorries queued on the M20 near Ashford
Lorries queued on the M20 near Ashford

In a letter to MPs, the Transport Secretary wrote: “It has been suggested that now the UK has left the European Union, we may wish to allow all car drivers – not just those who passed their test before Jan 1, 1997, the right to drive these larger vehicles without need for a further test.

“Changes to the licensing categories would potentially create a greater pool of drivers. I am quite happy to explore this idea and how this may work in reality – without making any commitments to legislative change at this stage.”

A cross-party group of MPs called for the logistics industry to “get its house in order”, including better overnight facilities for drivers and new training routes to recruit more hauliers, as the sector faces labour shortages.

The Commons Transport Select Committee said that if the changes are not made within two years, then the most profitable parts of the sector should face a new tax.

Under the proposed Supply Chain Levy, large supermarkets, oil companies and online service giants could be forced to pay towards the cost of new facilities for heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers.

Huw Merriman, the Conservative chairman of the committee, said: “We urge Government to be brave and force the sector to get its house in order. A Supply Chain Levy has worked previously to incentivise reform.

“If the industry won’t deliver change, Government should do so and send them the bill via increased taxes to those who produce and sell and make the most profits.”