THE UK Government will only require HGV drivers to pass a single test, rather than the current two, in order to try and tackle shortages in the industry.

There will also be a relaxation in the rules around towing trailers and caravans to allow for more HGV driver tests to be carried out.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said up to 50,000 more HGV driving tests would be made available, with drivers now only having to take one test to drive both a rigid and articulated lorry.

Previously, this needed two separate tests spaced three weeks apart.

It comes amid huge issues in supply chains in recent months, leaving some shop shelves empty, or forcing restaurants to remove items from their menus.

But the DfT said tests will also be made shorter by removing certain elements which can then be tested separately.

The National: Transport Secretary Grant ShappsTransport Secretary Grant Shapps

And car drivers will also no longer have to take another test to tow a trailer or caravan, freeing up more examiner time to carry out HGV tests.

It comes after the boss of the Food and Drink Federation said that the days when UK consumers could expect to pick up nearly whatever product they want whenever they want from supermarket shelves are over.

READ MORE: Post-Brexit shortages in supermarkets will be 'permanent', says industry boss

Ian Wright, the body’s chief executive, said that a shortage of lorry drivers is in part due to them moving to online retailers and starting to deliver for Amazon and Tesco.

These jobs often have better hours and pay, he added.

The farm-to-fork supply chain is missing around half a million of the four million people that usually work in the sector.

Part of this will have come from EU nationals leaving the UK amid the pandemic and Brexit, he said.

“It’s going to get worse, and it’s not going to get better after getting worse any time soon,” Wright told listeners at an event organised by the Institute for Government.

He added: “The result of the labour shortages is that the just-in-time system that has sustained supermarkets, convenience stores and restaurants – so the food has arrived on shelf or in the kitchen, just when you need it – is no longer working.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “From Inverness to St Ives, HGV drivers are helping to keep the country running, and have been throughout the pandemic.

“The shortage of drivers is a global problem, but we’ve been taking action here in the UK to help industry leaders attract drivers and build a more resilient sector.

“We’ve already delivered 50% more tests than were available before the pandemic, but today’s additional measures will deliver up to 50,000 more a year, helping more and more people to kickstart their career as a well paid HGV driver.”

Downing Street earlier rejected the idea that shortages will be “permanent” and insisted the UK food supply chain is “highly resilient”.

“We don’t recognise those claims,” a No 10 spokesman said.

“We have got highly resilient food supply chains which have coped extremely well in the face of challenges. We believe that will remain the case.

“We know there are some issues that are facing the sector. We will continue to speak and liaise with those involved in those industries to try to ensure we can help them as much as possible.”