Britain’s supply chains for food, medicines and other vital goods face disruption without urgent action on routine medical tests, the road haulage sector has warned.
All lorry and bus drivers aged over 45 must take a D4 medical test every five years, and those over 65 annually. However, GPs have suspending testing and specialist test centres have closed. Drivers unable to be tested have to stop working.
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) says the average age of UK HGV drivers is 56 and there was a shortfall of 60,000 drivers before the coronavirus pandemic. Self-isolation is further depleting driver numbers.
RHA spokesman Paul Mummery told Transport Network: ‘If there are fewer and fewer drivers on the road, we’re going to make it more of an acute problem in terms of the supply chain.’
Malcolm Bingham, the Freight Transport Association’s head of compliance information, said: ‘FTA is in urgent discussions with government to ensure that drivers are able to access mandated health checks so that they are legally compliant.
'While our members fully appreciate that the NHS is under unprecedented pressure at this time, it is important that those responsible for moving the goods and services on which the UK’s economy relies are able to continue working with the correct health certifications.’
Tim Shallcross, IAM Roadsmart’s head of technical policy, said recruitment could not fill gaps: ‘You’ve got to have a medical to apply for a HGV licence, so we can’t get any new people in to the industry.’
He said the Government had relaxed rules on lorry drivers’ hours and MoTs, and a simple change on medicals would enable drivers to self-certify during the current emergency.
Transport Network understands that the DfT is aware of the problem and working on a solution.