Following the fuel shortage and panic buying, Boris Johnson is trying to alleviate the nationwide crisis. Despite the unexpected visa offer for truck drivers, European workers may refuse to return to the UK.
The Prime Minister is expected to offer visas to the EU drivers, the head of the European Road Haulers Association (UETR) has said drivers on the continent are likely to ignore the UK in favour of "higher pay and better working conditions" across Europe.
"I expect many drivers will not return to the UK even if the UK Government allows them to," said Marco Digioia, the general secretary of UETR, which represents more than 70 percent of trucking companies across the EU.
"While offering visas to drivers on the continent would be a welcome step, there are many other issues, such as working conditions, pay, and the costs of getting into and working in the UK."
The Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, stated that Brexit was not to blame for the driver shortage, however, representatives right across the industry disagree.
Mr. Digioia also added that "it is not surprising" that the UK is suffering driver shortages. "There are two reasons," he said. "Number one is Brexit, and number two is Covid.
"There are driver shortages right across Europe as well, but the EU has committed to improving driver facilities and haulage companies are committed to improving pay and conditions. Until the UK offers the same pay and working conditions as drivers have in the EU, then many will stay away."
Regarding the working conditions within the transport industry, Brussels committed to a financial package to build new truck parking areas with improved facilities across the EU.
Last year, the EU implemented new rules for the road transport industry to end the distortion of competition in the sector, while providing better work conditions for drivers.
The difference in wages between drivers from western and eastern Europe has also been equalized since Covid and the logistics sector has faced a huge rise in demand.
The UK's leading trucking group also believes the granting of visas to EU drivers is only part of the solution to the nationwide shortage.
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) estimates there are 100,000 HGV vacancies, and blames the shortfall on a post-Brexit exodus of European drivers and a lack of driver training during the pandemic.
While there is ample fuel in refineries the lack of drivers has led to deliveries being delayed to pumping stations, as well as a shortage of bus, bin lorry, and food delivery drivers.
Duncan Buchanan, policy director at the RHA, said: "We need to know the detail of these visas. How much will they cost? How long will they last for? They are also only part of the solution to what will be a long-term problem if the Government does not act now."
Mr. Buchanan added that fuel truck drivers had been tempted into better-paid jobs in the sector, with some haulage companies offering starting bonuses of up to Â£5,000 to switch jobs.
"This is a skilled job. It is not just about driving. It's a complex and very responsible job and involves all sorts of different roles, whether driving fuel to a station or a turbine to a wind farm. The Government needs to show drivers they matter and improve working conditions. I expect some EU drivers may return when they can with visas, but that is not going to solve the issue."
The Government recently streamlined the process for people to gain an HGV license, but the RHA does not believe the benefit of new drivers coming into the sector will be seen until early next year.
"It takes three of four months to get a driver applying to learn today to be in working in the sector," added Mr. Buchanan. "Even after gaining their licence there a month to six weeks of training on the job and if you begin the process today then it's unlikely you'll be driving solo until the new year. The problem is that we need solutions right now."
A spokeswoman for Logistics UK declared: "It is hard to differentiate between how many EU drivers left the industry because of Covid or because of Brexit, or for other reasons. The Annual Population Survey statistics show that 19,000 EU drivers left the industry in the year to March 2021."
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