Runcorn & Widnes Weekly News

Truckers ‘crying out for tests’, says MP

- BY OLIVER CLAY

EAST Runcorn MP Mike Amesbury has blamed a shortage of test slots for slowing a supply of qualified truckers to an industry “crying out for them”.

Amid widespread images of pictures of empty supermarke­t shelves posted on social media and speculatio­n about whether a “pingdemic” or Brexit is to blame, Mr Amesbury cited Road Haulage Associatio­n figures, which estimated that the UK is 100,000 drivers short.

The Weaver Vale Labour MP said the issue is of particular importance for his constituen­cy because of the concentrat­ion of haulage firms in east Runcorn and the neighbouri­ng Halton constituen­cy.

More than 20 trainee drivers have contacted him frustrated at the long waiting lists they’re facing to obtain a test date.

Mr Amesbury added there was concern when a lorry driver training and testing centre closed at Widnes Business Park, but that the firm has relocated nearby and is seeking accreditat­ion from the

Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency to begin driver testing again in the near future.

He said: “I recognise the pandemic may have slowed down driver testing.

“But I understand the main issue now is a national shortage of driving test examiners.

“This is something the Government is belatedly starting to address although

I fear it may be too little, too late, to avoid a crisis.

“This is at a time when many people were encouraged to retrain because of the economic impact of Covid.

“But some trainee lorry drivers are having to wait 12-14 weeks for a driving test slot.

“I understand the whole process, from start to finish, now takes six months or more because of all the delays in the system when traditiona­lly it could be done in two months.”

Looking at the bigger picture, Mr Amesbury said he fears Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is seeking a “quick fix” to the national driver shortage in an industry problem exacerbate­d by Brexit and Covid – as many foreign lorry drivers have returned home to their families.

Mr Shapps wants to temporaril­y allow existing truck drivers to work longer hours and is even considerin­g “diluting driver standards”, Mr Amesbury

 ??  ?? ● Weaver Vale MP Mike Amesbury; inset, Grant Shapps MP
● Weaver Vale MP Mike Amesbury; inset, Grant Shapps MP
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