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Now not the time to unhitch towing test, says RED DRM

Government plans to relax the rules on towing trailers could have serious safety ramifications for drivers, businesses and other road users.

According to RED Driver Risk Management, forgoing the test to obtain B+E entitlement, which allows drivers who received their licences after 1997 to tow trailers, would bring significant risks

A consultation run by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) this summer explored a package of measures including changes to obtaining a vocational driving licence that would allow drivers to tow a trailer without having to take a test, as is currently the case.

And according to RED Driver Risk Management, forgoing the test to obtain B+E entitlement, which allows drivers who received their licences after 1997 to tow trailers, would bring significant risks.

The move is intended to make it easier for drivers to be allowed to drive specialised vehicles, helping to circumvent the current lorry driver shortages.

But RED DRM said the move “not only smacks of desperation, but undermines the relentless work the driver training industry has put in to make the UK’s roads safer over the years”.

Ian McIntosh, CEO of RED Driver Training explained: “No doubt stung by negative media coverage of empty supermarket shelves, and with driver shortages impacting upon freight distribution in the UK, the Government is seemingly panicked into being seen to do something, rather than actually thinking through the issues these proposals raise.

“For example, removing the need for an additional test for B+E entitlement for drivers to be able to drive car and van trailer combinations is a dangerous step backwards. It will expose more businesses, their employees and other road users to increased risk.”

His comments are backed by figures from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), which show that the national pass rate for B+E driving tests was 69.6% in 2019/20 and only 58% for 2020/21.

So basically, between 30-42% of people taking this test are unable to demonstrate the minimum standard of driving and competence to tow loaded trailers on the road on at least their first attempt.

“If these proposals go through, it could leave a significant number of drivers operating vehicles in a potentially unsafe manner – not only the actual driving and manoeuvring on our increasingly busy and congested roads and streets, but also understanding how to hitch, secure and load trailers safely,” McIntosh added.

“If the Government really needs a shortcut to free-up examiners to focus on the HGV driver shortage, a comprehensive familiarisation training course without the need for a DVSA test could be implemented for trailer towing. This should of course incorporate a pass / fail assessment by qualified providers (such as RED) as an absolute minimum short-term solution.”

And McIntosh summed it up by saying: “While we welcome moves to fix the backlog in driver training tests, the Government must not make a knee-jerk reaction for short-term gain. Doing this will wipe away years of expertise which have helped make the UK’s roads safer for everyone.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.

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