Why the HGV driver shortage won’t be solved by winter
Retailers are warning that Christmas goods and toys might not make it to the shelves unless more is done to solve the HGV driver shortage.
The RHA (Road Haulage Association) is calling for 40,000 cancelled HGV driving tests to be tackled immediately: “We continue to call for the backlog of HGV driving tests to be cleared, amidst warnings that the driver shortage will impact on Christmas this year as businesses struggle to move the goods.”
RHA chief executive Richard Burnett has said that the effects of the UK’s shortage of 100,000 HGV drivers are being felt across the country: “The plans that government has put in place to support the industry aren’t working. They’re not filling that gap quickly enough.”
Richard also explained that for many businesses, the build-up for Christmas has already started as an increasing number of products are delivered into the UK destined for warehouses and stores around the country. However, there are backlogs at ports and railheads, as containers wait for trucks to carry them away.
RHA managing director Rod McKenzie said: “We’re looking at a serious problem at Christmas. We are losing more lorry drivers week on week than we are gaining.”
According to RHA statistics, around 2,000 drivers are leaving the industry every week, often due to retirement, but only about 1,000 new recruits are joining the workforce in that same timeframe.
“While the announcement that the DVSA are recruiting 40 new vocational driving examiners is a start, more needs to be done to bring the HGV driver shortage crisis to an end.”
Calls for temporary visa status
Employers impacted by the exodus of hauliers from EU countries because of Brexit and Covid have been told to invest in UK-based workers rather than rely on labour from abroad.
The business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, wrote to business leaders saying foreign labour only offered “a short-term, temporary solution” after industry groups, Logistics UK, and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) called on the department to provide temporary UK visas to EU truck drivers.
In the letter, Kwarteng urged employers to help the “many UK-based workers [who] now face an uncertain future and need to find new employment opportunities”.
“I am sure you would agree on the importance of utilising the strength of our domestic workforce and how our migration policies need to be considered alongside our strategies to ensure UK-based workers are better able to secure decent employment opportunities.”
A review of the shortage occupations list, which sets out jobs for which overseas workers can apply for visas, is not due until next year.
HGV drivers are not included on the list, but there is pressure from supermarkets to include them to help ease the shortfall while more UK drivers are trained.
Home Office officials are said to be blocking the review being brought forward, amid concerns it could lead to other sectors demanding inclusion.
Organisations from the food and drink industry have recommended a 12-month Covid-19 recovery visa to help firms recruit staff, including HGV drivers, and an expanded seasonal worker scheme for the horticulture sector.