The HGV drivers’ shortage has become a real crisis and it could potentially get even worse during the Christmas season, despite warning signs having been there for a while now.
The past few weeks have seen supermarkets’ shelves empty, multiple branches of Nando’s closed due to supplies issues, and now McDonald’s has reported it has run out of milkshakes. These are just a few examples, as there are many other companies struggling with the transportation of their goods.
In order to recruit new drivers, Tesco has been trying to offer tempting bonuses of £1,000, however, this will make things worse for smaller businesses, as they cannot match the higher wages.
Regarding the cause of this crisis, there are many that are pointing the finger at the government. The driver shortage has been around for a while now and all this time ministers have ignored the warning signs. The trade union Unite represents many drivers and has a “Manifesto for Lorry Drivers“, including many practical proposals, however, the government doesn’t seem to consider any of them at the moment.
The combination between the government’s attitude, the approach to a trade deal with the EU, and the Covid-19 pandemic represent a real struggle for the logistics industry.
The government’s solution in regards to this issue was to increase the number of hours that HGV drivers can work. The industry does not see this as a viable option, as it is considered to put already overworked drivers at further risk of exhaustion, which will have knock-on effects on other road users. A clear and good strategy is desperately needed in order to alleviate the 90,000 shortfall in HGV drivers, as the sector is also dealing with an aging workforce and testing backlog.
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is currently conducting around 3,000 HGV driver tests a week. The pass rate is 58%, and it would take more than a year to fill the vacancies. Retirements are also to be considered, as the average age of retirement is 55, and retired drivers are not replaced by new recruits at the same rate. On top of these aspects, Brexit is further exacerbating things, as the industry cannot rely on the foreign workforce anymore.
While the government refuses to work with the industry, Labour supports businesses, drivers, and consumers who desperately need a solution, particularly in vital food supply chains.
Labour would work closely with the industry to expand testing capacity for HGV drivers, but also to make the industry more attractive to a new generation of drivers. At the same time, there are plans to work alongside the Migration Advisory Committee to assess the extent of the skills shortage in this sector and identify how this can be recognised in the immigration points system. Labour would work with trade unions in the sector to make it a more attractive industry to work in and accessible to more people.
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