The heavy-weight drivers' shortage is one of the mains issues the industry is currently facing, and the government is considering a short-term visa project for foreign drivers.
Both COVID-19 and Brexit have contributed to the new issue, and the government's help has been requested.The industry is asking for drivers to be added to the Shortage Occupations list, allowing them to obtain a skilled worker visa.
"We need long-term solutions to recruit a new generation of British lorry drivers into the trade, but short-term there is an urgent need for foreign drivers to be allowed in, under the Shortage Occupations list," said Rod McKenzie, managing director of policy at the Road Haulage Association (RHA).
Apparently, the government is focused to recruit British candidates, but the industry is considering this to be a long-term resolution, and urges a solution as soon as possible, as it’s taking 6 to 9 months to train an HGV driver.
In regards to this matter, transport minister Baroness Vere said she had discussed this issue with the haulage sector two years ago, adding: "It was very clear then that foreign labour would not be available to it."
Businesses are now concerned that once with the reopening of the economy, the drivers' shortage will increase the prices for customers and also the freight volume, causing massive backlogs.
Also, due to the pandemic, lots of drivers could not take their tests last year, which affected the industry even more. At the same time, lots of foreign drivers decided to go back to their home countries at the beginning of COVID outbreak, and were not able to return to the UK due to Brexit new regulation.
The RHA estimates that the industry is currently facing a shortage of 60,000 drivers and declared that the situation for food supplies was "close to a crisis point".
"We're seeing a real danger to our supplies in the UK because of driver shortages," said Mr. McKenzie.
Mr. McKenzie declared that even if the industry tried to attract new candidates by increasing the wages, it is limited by slim profit margins.
It costs thousands of pounds to train up drivers and that is out of reach for many haulage firms and prospective drivers, he added.
Alex Veitch, general manager of public policy at industry body Logistics UK, said the situation "has become a crisis"."We need the government to provide funding for driver training to open the industry up to as many people as possible and deliver their commitment to provide safe, secure parking for drivers. (…) Meanwhile, without a temporary visa for drivers - similar to that recently granted to agricultural workers to pick vital crops - the supply chain will break down".
As a solution, the government decided to relax the limits on driving hours, allowing the drivers to work more. However, Rod McKenzie is not seeing this as a good resolution: "Extending lorry drivers' hours, as the government is doing, is a bad idea. Tired drivers don't make better drivers or safer roads".
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