NFUS is in discussion with the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) on the importance of access to driving tests for the agricultural workforce, particularly in the run up to harvest.
The Union has been raising the importance of testing for the agricultural workforce at the highest level and the DVSA has provided NFUS with more information regarding the availability of emergency tests.
Last week, the DVSA made changes to service provision in England and from Friday 4 July, theory tests and driving lessons will resume; from Monday 6 July, tractors tests will resume and driving tests will resume from Wednesday 22 July.
The DVSA has highlighted that driver and rider testing services will resume in phases, starting with ones where social distancing is easier to maintain; therefore, tractor tests will be one of the first services to return.
Discussions around the resumption of testing and training for the devolved administrations are ongoing.
Although driving tests are still suspended in Scotland, critical workers can apply for an emergency driving test through the DVSA portal. Agricultural workers are included in this category as members of the food and drink industry.
The DVSA are currently conducting driving tests using volunteer driving examiners and three categories of critical workers are justifiably being prioritised now: NHS workers; care workers and emergency services personnel, for example paramedics.
If it is not possible for an agricultural worker to get a test at this time, applicants will be informed of this by email and placed on hold until there are more appointments available. From Monday 6 July, the DVSA have confirmed that they will expand the number of driving tests available to critical workers across Great Britain.
The DVSA is planning for the resumption of driving tests across all parts of the UK and these plans include provision to restart tractor driving tests. As restrictions lift and more tests become available, agricultural workers will be prioritised as they are part of the critical worker category.
The resumption of tests will be dependent on operational factors, such as lockdown restrictions in Scotland and capacity at regional testing centres. New candidates will be able to apply for tests after the DVSA have conducted the tests reserved for critical workers and all other applicants with a suspended test will be able to choose a new time and date. NFUS will remain in discussion with the DVSA on this matter
NFU Scotland’s Legal and Technical Committee Chair, Tom French, who farms in South Lanarkshire said: “Access to tests is particularly important for our younger workforce, and our engagement with DVSA has been welcome.
“The DVSA have listened to our concerns on this matter and understand the potential implications for harvest work.
“At the moment, tests are being conducted by volunteers and we are grateful for they work that they are doing to support our health care services. We welcome more tests at the earliest opportunity which will allow our agricultural workforce to do their essential work and support the nation by producing and harvesting world-class food.”
DVSA Chief Driving Examiner Mark Winn said: “The agricultural industry is a vital cog in the UK economy which keeps us all fed and nourished.
“Tractors play a key role in this industry by supporting harvesting and many other farming activities. It is vital that tractor tests in Scotland resume when it is safe to do so and in line with the Government’s advice.”