HGV driver fears licence application was lost as huge DVLA backlog leaves many in three-month limbo

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Many HGV drivers are still waiting to receive their licence renewals and get back on the roads, leaving people facing unprecedented financial stress due to delays to their applications amid a chronic shortage of workers in the industry.

Business leaders this week wrote to Boris Johnson urging the Prime Minister to “act now to prevent a Christmas crisis” as British industries grapple with an escalating HGV driver shortage and the knock-on effect it has had on the UK’s supply chain.

The DVLA is currently working through a backlog of thousands of licence applications, exacerbated by staff strike action, social distancing measures and home working. Retired HGV licence holders have also been targeted by the Government in the hope they would help plug the estimated 100,000 HGV driver shortage, but people who spoke to i said they have been waiting months to hear back from the agency.

Simon Bailey sent off his application for renewal on 25 July following a six-month driving ban for two speeding incidents on his licence over the past three years. His ban ran from February to August this year, and he renewed his HGV licence just before it was due to end, as he was supposed to. But three months later he is yet to receive an outcome from the DVLA and is “frustrated” over the lack of communication from the agency.

HGV driver fears licence application was lost as huge DVLA backlog leaves many in three-month limbo
© Provided by The i Simon Bailey is waiting on his HGV licence renewal and has not heard if they have received his application three months on (Photo: Simon Bailey)

The 30-year-old from Burton-on-Trent said he has struggled to get a DVLA representative on the phone. After multiple attempts to call the agency, during which he said he was hung up on while waiting to speak to someone and more than once was told there were no staff available when he tried to use the online chat, he managed to speak to someone in August.

However, he claims they could not give him a clear answer on whether or not his application had been received. “I asked if it had been lost in the post but they said they couldn’t say if that were the case,” he told i.

Three weeks after the call, Mr Bailey decided to act as if his old application had been lost in the post and re-sent everything, incurring the additional £65 to do so.

“That’s going to take another three months to process now,” he said.

“I’ve got three kids and Christmas is coming. I’ve got the same commitments as before my ban – I’ve got a mortgage to pay and bills.”

Mr Bailey has been working as a labourer in the interim but says the £60 a day wage is not nearly enough to care for his family. The entire situation has put him under extreme stress.

HGV driver fears licence application was lost as huge DVLA backlog leaves many in three-month limbo
© Provided by The i Read More – Featured Image

HGV drivers say they have heard from many others who are being told their applications have been lost in the post or are struggling to hear back from the DVLA about it.

It comes as the Government is implementing a temporary visa scheme to tackle the shortages by bringing in 5,000 HGV drivers and 5,500 poultry workers on three-month contracts.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said ministers are planning to train an additional 4,000 lorry drivers with the help of the Army to reduce the “bottleneck” in HGV driving tests.   

Driver Gary Mill said has been in a back-and-forth with the DVLA for two months, with the agency taking weeks to tell him his application needed extra information.

He sent off his licence renewal application on 8 August, but it was sent back to him more than a week later after he was told his eyesight test was six weeks over the acceptable time limit.

Mr Mill then completed a new eyesight test and returned his updated application on 23 August.

He said he desperately tried to speak to someone at the DVLA on the phone in the ensuing weeks to check his application was correct, and was eventually told his licence was waiting to be uploaded into the system as all of his forms were acceptable.

But a week after being told this, transport minister Baroness Vere of Norbiton, who he was in communication with regarding his application, sent him a letter informing him that a medical questionnaire had been sent to his GP. She said that once Mr Mill completed the questionnaire his application would be reviewed as a priority. Her letter was dated 30 September.

Mr Mill then checked the information with his surgery but was told his GP had already sent back the medical questionnaire four days before the minister’s 30 September letter.

“Apparently now I need to have an exercise ECG [a cardiac stress test that measures the heart’s ability to respond to external stress in a controlled clinical environment]. I can’t have that done until the DVLA sends the request to Burton hospital which could take another four weeks and the DVLA state I must have it completed within six weeks,” he told i.

“How is it I get told by a woman at the DVLA that all is good with my licence, then weeks later I’m told my GP has to complete a questionnaire then told I need an ECG?

“If I needed an ECG why not tell me that when they said my eyesight test was out of date?”

HGV driver fears licence application was lost as huge DVLA backlog leaves many in three-month limbo
© Provided by The i George Mackie has been unable to reunite with his family in Spain because of the delay in processing his licence (Photo: George Mackie)

George Mackie, 70, is not a HGV driver but sent off an application for a licence renewal on 8 July as his vehicle is above the 3500kg threshold. He’s yet to hear back from the agency, and despite multiple attempts has been unable to get a spokesperson on the phone.

He lives part-time between Scotland and Spain and has been unable to see his daughter because of the application delay. He and his family had a trip planned two weeks ago and they have gone on without him.

The lack of communication “is so frustrating,” he told i. “If you knew it would be sorted in in six weeks, then you could plan your life. But you make all the plans to leave thinking if I’ve applied in July, September will be fine and it’s not.

“If you go on their site it said it will take longer than three to four weeks for an application to be sorted, and then a few weeks down the line this went to six weeks and then it went to 10 weeks.”

A DVLA spokesperson said: “When considering an application to issue a driving licence we aim to make a decision as quickly as possible. However where we require additional information from a driver’s doctor or medical professional involved in their care we are wholly reliant on receiving this information before a decision can be made.”

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