I was shocked and disappointed by a recent Government decision to scrap the need for an additional test for those towing a trailer between 750kg and 3,500 kg, called a B+E test – without any assessment of what risks this poses to the safety of drivers and pedestrians. This is a real step back and is a bitter blow both to the campaign for greater trailer safety, and to the families of those who have lost loved ones in preventable accidents. I am extremely concerned about the impact this could have on safety standards, a fear I know is shared by many in the industry.
Statistics for the car and trailer driving test pass rate suggests there is a consistent fail rate of 30%, with 8,575 people failing the test in 2019/20. It is very concerning that under proposed Government legislation these drivers who under existing rules are deemed unqualified, could progress to towing a trailer without a mandated test. This will put countless lives at risk and pose a real and present danger to other road users and pedestrians.
The Government has proposed replacing this test with a voluntary scheme, but the training will not be regulated and the responsibility will lie instead on business and individuals to “do the right thing”. This isn’t good enough, and the Government must fill this gap with an organisation that administers an industry accredited training scheme for drivers towing light trailers. I urge the Government to work with me to make the voluntary scheme work as well as possible.
That this legislation is being fast-tracked in the way it is, represents Parliamentary sharp practice of the shoddiest order, with the Government offensively proclaiming these changes are needed to solve the HGV crisis. Whilst this legislation could free up some examiner capacity, it would not be enough to reverse the backlog. The key question for the Government is, is it worth risking lives for? It is also staggering that, at the time of writing, there is still no assessment of the safety implications of this decision, the ramifications of which are literally a matter of life and death and something the House of Lords have also expressed concerns about.
Devastatingly, the new Government proposals risk undermining the progress made by the #TowSafe4Freddie campaign, established by the family of Bristol South constituent, Freddie Hussey, who lost his life in a trailer accident. Freddie’s parents, Donna and Scott Hussey, have shown continued tenacity and quiet heroism in their campaign for improved trailer safety, and a dignified yet unflinching determination to do something that would prevent another family suffering – so terribly and needlessly – as they had done.
We have been promised, time and again, legislation that is fit to serve the memory of Freddie and the bravery of his family. These proposals are not, in any way, shape or form, fit for purpose, but I will continue to press the Government on the issue of towing safety.