Driver shortages “likely to worsen”, warn lobby groups

Driver shortages “likely to worsen”, warn lobby groups

Logistics UK and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) have called on the government to review and reform current policy on HGV drivers, to tackle the worsening impact of driver shortages across the food supply chain.

With their letter to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, the lobby groups called for better training for HGV drivers and a review of plans not to grant temporary work visas to drivers from the EU. The groups claimed that granting a temporary visa to EU drivers could encourage growth in driver numbers after an estimated 25,000 drivers returned to the EU due to Brexit and Covid-19.

A shortfall of about 90,000 HGV drivers, the groups said, “is placing increasingly unsustainable pressure on retailers and their supply chains”.

David Wells, chief executive of Logistics UK, said that the groups had urged the government to adopt three policies immediately.

He explained: “First, to increase DVSA’s testing capacity permanently so the agency is able to process the backlog of driver tests placed on hold during the pandemic – this has left thousands of aspiring HGV drivers unable to join the workforce.

“The government should also review its decision not to grant temporary work visas to HGV drivers from the EU, as such drivers could supplement the domestic HGV workforce in the short-term, while the testing backlog is cleared, and new drivers are trained and become qualified.

“Third, industry needs government to ensure its skills and training schemes support the recruitment of HGV drivers, by reforming the National Skills Fund to fund HGV driver training and injecting flexibility into the Apprenticeship Levy.”

A government spokesperson told the BBC that the implications of Brexit, a vote to end free movement, meant that employers “should invest in our domestic workforce instead of relying on labour from abroad.”

The spokesperson continued: “We recently announced a package of measures to help tackle the HGV driver shortage, including plans to streamline the process for new drivers to gain their HGV licence and to increase the number of tests able to be conducted.

“We have also temporarily relaxed drivers’ hours rules to allow HGV drivers to make slightly longer journeys, but these must only be used where necessary and must not compromise driver safety.”

The groups have warned that over the coming weeks the current issues are likely to escalate. An increase in the number of deliveries has been predicted due to an increase in the number of people returning to school and/or work. The build up to Christmas, the industry’s busiest period, is also expected to increase demand for HGV drivers.

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