Waiting times for HGV driving tests have increased by more than two thirds in the last 11 months, contributing to the driver shortage problem which threatens to cancel Christmas.
A Freedom of Information request made to the Driver & Vehicle Standards Association (DVSA) revealed that at the beginning of August 2015, 33 of the 49 HGV test centres in the UK had seen an increase in waiting times compared to October 2014.
The average aspiring truck driver now has to wait nearly four and a half weeks for a HGV test date, but in some parts of the country trainees can be kept waiting for up to 11 weeks.
This news comes weeks after the Road Haulage Association (RHA) warned that a lorry driver shortage could put Christmas at risk.
They said that a worsening deficit of tens of thousands of licensed and qualified drivers was threatening the delivery of Christmas orders.
This driver shortage trend has been emerging for some time.
Hauliers and industry bodies have long warned of the dangers of an ageing workforce. Nearly half of the current workforce is made up of drivers over 50.
The age problem is made worse by the comparatively tiny number of people training to become truck drivers. The number of new applications for HGV licences fell by more than 32,000 in the five years to June 2015 – a record low.
The RHA argues that the high cost of training is one of the biggest barrier to attracting new recruits. They say that training for an HGV licence costs between £3,000 and £5,000 and say that some of this cost should be picked up by the government to help keep the countries goods moving.
Longer waiting times at tests centres will drive up the cost of training for labour force entrants, particularly in terms of lost earnings.
James Bulmer, key account manager at Ecodrive Transmissions said: “The HGV driver shortage is a massive concern for haulage companies across the UK – now retailers are starting to balk at the prospect of empty shelves.
“Despite long-term warnings from industry bodies it still seems as though the DVSA is underprepared and underfunded.
“The government needs to be doing everything they can to attract more young drivers to the industry and first and foremost that means bringing down the cost of training”.