Following a meeting between the government, hauliers, and suppliers, it has been acknowledged that the HGV driver shortage is getting worse day by day.
The government declared that they are still having appointments with affected groups.
The well-known supply chain crisis has impacted different sectors, including the health & care and the hospitality industry.
"The government seem to finally understand the scale of the problem. For the first time they looked rattled", industry sources told the BBC.
There are voices saying that one of the main ideas is to combine the Class C test used for rigid lorries and Class E for larger articulated lorries into a single test. Haulage firms are desperate for drivers to fill the vacancies so they can meet their customers’ expectations, however, warned that it would not be enough to fix the actual problem.
They also asked for HGV drivers to be added to the Shortage Occupation List which would allow companies to temporarily bring back some of the estimated 20,000 EU drivers who have left the industry.
Currently, there is usually a 2-3 week minimum period between taking the two tests. The haulage industry declared that the supply chain reached this critical point due to a perfect storm of a post-Brexit driver shortage, an aging and retiring workforce, and COVID-related delays to testing new drivers.
Paul Jackson of Chiltern Distribution said: "This is a sensible move but it's not enough to fix the problem. We don't put newly qualified drivers straight behind the wheel on their own. We buddy them up with experienced drivers for the first 8-10 weeks and the insurance costs for new drivers are also much higher. We desperately need to put HGV drivers on the list of skilled workers we can bring in from abroad."
The Chemical Business Association, which represents chemical firms within the supply chain, expressed concerns that its members were struggling to get chemicals to water companies. Tim Doggett, its chief executive, declared: "The supply chain situation in the UK is deteriorating."
A survey conducted by the industry group suggests 96% of member companies are now experiencing issues with UK haulage, up from 63% in its last survey in June.
The Chemical Business Association has written to ministers warning about the effects of driver shortages. The group addressed to Prime Minister Boris Johnson in June, saying that "there was a contingent risk to the supply of chemicals into vital areas such as water treatment, which would be critical to the health and wellbeing of the population".
The government is expected to declare that the new project will allow up to 3,000 new drivers to be tested per week, the pass rate is 56%, which means an extra 1,600 drivers per week.
However, Richard Burnett from the Road Haulage Association said the industry was losing 600 drivers weekly, and with a shortfall of 90,000 drivers, it would take nearly two years to fill the gap.
The industry was already reporting shortages of about 60,000 drivers before Brexit and the pandemic.
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