It has been a while now since the transport industry is stressing out the importance of the drivers' shortage matter, and how badly this crisis will impact the country’s economy.
It is imperative to find a resolution in this case, as the HGVs are responsible for moving all kinds of goods around the UK. However, due to a combination of Covid, Brexit, and other factors, there aren't enough drivers to meet demand.
The Road Haulage Association declared there is now a shortage of more than 100,000 drivers in the UK, out of a pre-pandemic total of about 600,000. That number included tens of thousands of drivers from EU member states who were living and working in the UK. Even before Covid, the estimated shortage was about 60,000 drivers.
But the situation is getting even worse, as the transport companies are warning they can no longer guarantee and all the pick-ups and deliveries.
Among those speaking up recently are the farmers, the construction sector, and manufacturers whose businesses depend on scheduled collections and deliveries.
The factors that have led to this crisis are very well known: Covid has certainly played an important part, considering the travel has been restricted last year and many European drivers went home.
Also, due to the pandemic, the HGV drivers could not have their tests, and it was impossible to recruit new drivers.
Another important factor in the industry’s crisis is Brexit. When the UK was part of the EU, the European drivers were able to move freely. However, because of the new border bureaucracy, it is extremely complicated for them to drive into and out of the UK.
Tax and conditions
The changes that appeared in the tax and conditions sectors are also contributing to the drivers shortage.The reform of the IR35 rules - on how people working off the payroll pay tax - are designed to prevent workers from setting up limited companies through which they pay less tax and National Insurance while working, in effect, as an employee. But it means there's less incentive for them to come and work in the UK because they make less money.
Haulage companies also want better conditions for drivers in general, and a recognition that they are a vital part of the economy.
Another important aspect is the average age. The majority of the HGV drivers in the UK is 55, and action must be taken in order to recruit younger drivers.
"The main reasons for the shortage have always been centered around the workforce being an ageing population, (…) It is not a role that seems to encourage or appeal to enough younger potential employees entering the market. This issue has of course then been exacerbated by Brexit “says Vikki Woodfine, head of road transport and logistics at the legal and business services group, DWF.
As a solution, the government decided to relax the limits on driving hours, allowing the drivers to work more. "This will allow HGV drivers to make slightly longer journeys," a government spokesperson said, "but must only be used where necessary and must not compromise driver safety."
Further measures are due to be announced shortly, the spokesperson said.
But the temporary measure, which runs until 8 August, has been criticized as compromising safety standards, and the industry says it will do little to ease the problems it is facing.
The transport companies came up with the idea of the temporary visa, to help the driver from abroad to work in the UK.
They want foreign drivers to be added to what's known as the Shortage Occupations list, allowing them to qualify for a skilled worker visa.
Source: BBC News
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