DVLA license processing backlog adding to HGV driver shortage

A UK media outlet’s investigation has revealed that the DVLA has a backlog of 30,000 outstanding applications for HGV and bus licenses, as the country struggles with a shortage of 100,000 HGV drivers.

In a statement to Politics Home, the DVLA said “as of 24 October 2021 a total of 29,545 vocational driving licence applications were waiting to be processed”.

The problem has been in part due to the pandemic as efficiency at the Swansea offices was hit with repeated COVID-19 outbreaks and many staff worked at home. There has been a surge in applications thanks to government support to try to tackle the problem but this has hit a bottleneck at the DVLA.

The agency’s data shows that 70,000 large goods vehicle tests were taken (43,065 of which were passes) in 2019/20 – this was significantly higher than 2020/21 when just 27,569 tests taken. Of that, 15,979 were passed, just 15% of the shortage that has been compounded by significant numbers of older drivers retiring.

A DVLA spokesperson said that the backlog in applications had “fallen by over 20,000 since the start of October and is continuing to fall every day”.

“There are no delays for bus and lorry provisional licence applications which are currently being issued in around 5 days – we are prioritising these applications and looking at ways to speed up this process even further,” the spokesperson said. 

“The vast majority of lorry and bus applications we have are drivers renewing their licences and in most cases these drivers can continue to drive while we are processing their application provided they have not been told by their doctor or optician they should not drive.”

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