Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Transport Representatives Lobby Hard for Government Steps to End the Driver Shortage

Logistics and Haulage Associations Map a Route Out of Crisis
Shipping News Feature

UK – The paucity of skilled commercial vehicle drivers which is currently blighting the country has produced a flurry of action from the trade associations representing the haulage and logistics sectors, keen to lobby and harass the authorities into action.

From both the chief executive and managing director of the Road Haulage Association (RHA) came interviews with the press out lining the situation. CEO Richard Burnett told BBC Merseyside that the effects of the UK’s shortage of 100,000 HGV drivers are being felt across the country, but the plans put in place by the government to support the industry aren’t working and not filling that gap quickly enough.

He went on to explain that for many businesses, the build-up for Christmas has already started as an increasing number of products are delivered into the UK destined for warehouses and stores around the country. However, there are already backlogs at ports and railheads, as containers wait for trucks to carry them away.

Meanwhile, speaking to iNews RHA managing director Rod McKenzie explained that around 2,000 drivers are leaving the industry every week often due to retirement, but only about 1,000 new recruits are joining the workforce in that same timeframe. This required top priority be given to HGV driving tests by the DVLA.

Last year, 40,000 of these tests were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, meaning that the industry has not been able to bring new truckers into the industry. The RHA points out that it is absolutely vital that this backlog be cleared as quickly as possible and that, while the announcement that the DVSA are recruiting 40 new vocational driving examiners is a start, more needs to be done to bring the HGV driver shortage crisis to an end.

Meanwhile Logistics UK has also been active and this week joined with the British Retail Consortium (BRC) in writing to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to outline key three steps the government can take to overcome the problem and protect the supply chain. The letter underlines similar arguments to that of the RHA.

The two organisations, which together represent more than 23,000 members nationwide, say the crisis is anticipated to worsen in the coming months as demand for goods increases with the new school year starting, businesses returning to their workplaces post-Covid-19 restrictions, and the build-up to Christmas beginning, traditionally the peak time for logistics movements.

Writing with Helen Dickenson OBE, the BRC’s Chief Executive, David Wells, the Chief Executive of Logistics UK observed:

“Logistics UK and BRC need BEIS to work with us to ensure the government provides a clear road map and tangible support for industry to ensure that our stores can continue to provide what the country needs every day.”

The letter itself says:

“The current shortfall of around 90,000 HGV drivers is placing unsustainable pressure on retailers and their supply chains. While there was a shortage of HGV drivers prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, these two events have exacerbated the situation; the pandemic halted driver training and testing for more than 12 months, while an estimated 25,000 EU drivers returned home during the pandemic and following the end of the transition period.”

The pair are urging the government to adopt three policies immediately. First, to increase DVSA’s testing capacity permanently so the agency is able to process the backlog of driver tests placed on hold during the pandemic. This has left thousands of aspiring HGV drivers unable to join the workforce.

The government should also review its decision not to grant temporary work visas to HGV drivers from the EU, as such drivers could supplement the domestic HGV workforce in the short-term, while the testing backlog is cleared, and new drivers are trained and become qualified.

Third, industry needs government to ensure its skills and training schemes support the recruitment of HGV drivers, by reforming the National Skills Fund to fund HGV driver training and injecting flexibility into the Apprenticeship Levy.