The UK's HGV crisis has been hitting the headlines in earnest since the middle of 2021 due to a shortage of drivers mainly thought to be due to the UK's decision to leave the European Union. As of September, the driver deficit exceeds 100,000, affecting, for example, food supplies now and further possible shortages warned for Christmas.

In July 2021, the UK government came up with a solution to try and help. Grant Shapps (MP and Secretary for Transport) tweeted that there would be a temporary lengthening in the number of hours a driver could drive per day. The extension remained in place until 8 August 2021 and allowed drivers to stay behind the wheel for 10 hours per day, from the previous 9 hours, with one period of 11 hours no more than twice a week, from the previous 10 hours. This extension of hours has been further extended to 3 October 2021 and continues to be under review.

However, this extension in hours may be a risk issue for motor insurers. It could increase the number of potential claims since drivers on the roads for longer does theoretically mean an increase in the chance of accidents occurring, due to tiredness, for example.

Positive feedback from a UK government consultation on HGV driving tests and trailer towing restrictions/tests held before the relaxation of driving hours will mean amendments to the UK's Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) Regulations 1999. These will allow an additional 50,000 HGV driving tests.

Drivers who passed their car licence after 1 January 1997 will no longer be required to sit a trailer towing test and may tow a trailer with a maximum authorised mass (MAM) of up to 3.5tonnes. The change will take effect from autumn 2021, at a date to be confirmed.

This change, too, will likely have an impact on insurers and how they rate their premiums. Although in the UK you don't necessarily need a separate insurance policy for a trailer which is covered under the driver's vehicle liability cover, there will be more inexperienced drivers with trailers on the roads. Of course, drivers are still encouraged to partake in lessons on how to tow to gain experience under safe conditions.

Other amendments to the regulations include those car licence holders who wish to gain their HGV licence now choosing which test they sit first. At present, drivers wishing to obtain their C(+E) licence, (vehicles over 3.5tonnes with no restrictions on upper vehicle size. The +E relates to trailers) ideally need to pass their C1 licence first (vehicles over 3.5tones with a maximum size of 7.5tonnes).

The changes allow a driver to go straight to their C(+E) test and if successful, will be granted not only this category on their licence but also the C, C1 and C1+E categories. It is hoped that this restriction relaxation will increase the number of HGV test from 14,000 tests per year to 20,000 tests. If this number is accurate, insurers could see an increase in the number of policyholders both on a commercial and private basis.


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