What’s Next For HGV Drivers in 2023 and Beyond?
9 October 2023
Image of vehicles driving down a UK motorway.

As we head towards the end of 2023, it is time to explore the evolving landscape for Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) drivers in the United Kingdom. Several key developments stand to significantly impact the industry, prompting adaptations and new approaches to operations.

The driving industry has come a long way over the past decade, with the rise of electric cars, autonomous vehicles, and smart motorways. But what does the future hold for the driving industry? In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the latest trends and changes that may shape the future of HGV driving.



The Return of the HGV Levy

One of the changes that has already come into effect is the return of the HGV levy. The HGV (Heavy Goods Vehicle) levy is a charge on heavy goods vehicles weighing 12 tonnes and more. It aims to ensure that HGVs contribute to the cost of wear and tear on UK roads.

Introduced in 2014, this pay-per-use tax was suspended in 2020 to aid UK and overseas HGV drivers during the global pandemic. This returned in August 2023 and it means that these drivers will be contributing to the maintenance of the country’s roads, impacting the bottom line of haulage companies and possibly causing ripple effects in the prices of goods transported by road.

However, the levy is not without its benefits. It aims to encourage more environmentally-friendly transport decisions, with lower rates applicable to less polluting vehicles. This could, in the long term, result in a more sustainable logistics sector, which is increasingly needed in the face of climate change.



Lower Speed Limits

Transportation is a vital artery of the UK’s economy, with the Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) industry playing a crucial role. However, proposed reductions in speed limits are poised to significantly impact this sector.

Lower speed limits, said to be a measure to reduce road accidents and environmental impact, could also have implications for the HGV industry. Efficiency and punctuality are the backbone of logistics, and these new regulations could directly affect delivery times. HGVs already operate under stringent time schedules, and additional restrictions would further tighten this window, potentially leading to increased pressure on drivers.

Furthermore, the lower speed limits could lead to an increase in operating costs. More time on the road equates to higher fuel usage, even if vehicles are moving at slower speeds. This, coupled with potential penalties for late deliveries, could significantly impact the financial sustainability of HGV operators.

On the other hand, it’s worth noting that lower speed limits could also bring certain benefits. Reduced speeds may result in fewer accidents involving HGVs, potentially lowering insurance premiums for HGV companies. In addition, slower moving traffic could lead to less wear and tear on vehicles, lowering maintenance costs.



Developments in HGV Vehicles

HGV (Heavy Goods Vehicle) technology is rapidly advancing, aiming to make logistics more efficient, safer, and more environmentally friendly. One of the significant breakthroughs in this industry is the development of low-emission engines. As the world steadily moves towards a greener future, manufacturers are focusing on creating engines that minimise CO2 emissions, thereby reducing their environmental impact.

Further improvements can be seen in the realm of safety. Innovations are being made in automatic braking systems and proximity sensors, which dramatically reduce the risk of accidents. These technologies aim to protect not just the driver and their cargo, but also everyone around them on the road.

Additionally, the advent of autonomous driving technologies is set to revolutionise the HGV industry. With features like self-parking and autopilot, these vehicles promise to make long-haul transport less strenuous, increasing efficiency and reducing the risk of driver fatigue.



Stricter Regulations on Self-Driving Vehicles

One of the bigger shifts on the horizon involves the increasing use of self-driving vehicles. As this technology continues to advance, HGV drivers may face stricter regulations to ensure safety on the roads. This could involve additional training or certification, or the implementation of new protocols for HGV operation. Moreover, the costs associated with meeting these stricter regulations will likely be passed onto the industry.

Stricter regulations on self-driving vehicles could mean a potential delay in the widespread adoption of autonomous lorries. This delay could, however, provide the HGV industry some breathing room to tackle its current challenges, such as long working hours and an ageing workforce.



Expansion of Clean Air Schemes

The UK’s commitment to creating a cleaner environment is well illustrated by the expansion of Clean Air Zones (CAZs) across various cities. However, this initiative has potential implications for Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) drivers that need careful consideration.

CAZs are areas where targeted action is taken to improve air quality, often by discouraging or charging the most polluting vehicles, including many HGVs. The expansion of CAZs may not only affect route planning for HGV drivers but also impose additional costs.

With the introduction of CAZs, HGV drivers must plan their routes more meticulously to avoid non-compliance penalties. This change could lead to longer journeys and increased time on the road, impacting productivity and the timely delivery of goods.

Moreover, the charges associated with entering CAZs in non-compliant vehicles can be substantial. For instance, a non-Euro 6 HGV can be charged up to £100 per day in certain areas. These charges could potentially increase operational costs for transport companies, possibly leading to increased costs for consumers.

However, the UK government is offering support to operators of HGVs through schemes like the HGV Retrofit Accreditation Scheme and grants to help with the costs of retrofitting diesel vehicles to help reduce NOx and particulate matter emissions. But the question remains – will this be enough to offset the potential challenges posed by the expansion of CAZs? As the UK continues its journey towards cleaner air, the impact on the logistics industry and HGV drivers will undoubtedly continue to evolve.


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