The decision to remove the automatic 7.5t (Cat C1) entitlement from a car licence came at a time when Amazon and EBay were in their infancy and nobody could contemplate the imminent impact of e-commerce, let alone the subsequent increase in the demands on the home delivery sector.
It has become surprisingly apparent to many, that the current shortage of drivers is no longer limited to the ‘big guns’ of LGV 1 & 2 (Cat C+E and C). The number of available 7.5t drivers, given that you need to be 40 plus to have the automatic entitlement, is falling far behind the industry requirement. Tie this to the fact that the difference in price between attaining your 7.5t or LGV 2 is minimal and you begin to understand the picture as to why few candidates are training to only the 7.5t level. Therefore, the removal of this requirement should not have a significantly negative impact on the training industry or, the number of candidates taking the test.
Not to suggest it does not exist, but I have not been able to find any data to support the theory that swapping these ‘Grandfather Rights’ to an additional vocational licence has reduced the number of accidents or incidents involving this type of vehicle. (The number of reported accidents for vehicles between 3.5t and 7.5t has admittedly fallen from 3977 in 1997* to 1722 in 2013*). However, this positive trend could just as easily be attributed to the huge advancements made in the safety performance and build quality of both non-commercial and commercial vehicles along with the introduction of additional periodic driver training, such as DCPC.
The fact that anyone could drive a 7.5t vehicle was often part of the route into the industry as the natural progression was to drive bigger, better vehicles and be paid more. However, since the removal of automatic entitlement this is now just another barrier to entry, the impact on numbers coming through to the industry via this route has been marginalised.
Even where funding for HGV licence acquisition is available, or an employer is prepared to invest; having drivers who have had a period of time under their belts as 7.5t prior, increases test pass percentages on the larger vehicles, thereby reducing the overall cost per candidate.
Given that the cost of initially prohibiting this category was low, I must assume that reinstating it would provide a much needed, low cost injection of willing, available labour into the Haulage & Distribution sector.
*DfT Road Safety Statistics