Lobby groups for the retail and transport industries have written to Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) warning the impact of a shortage of lorry drivers on supply chains is getting worse.
Logistics UK, which represents freight firms, and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said that while there was a shortage of HGV drivers prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, these two events had “exacerbated the situation.”
“The pandemic halted driver training and testing for over 12 months, while an estimated 25,000 EU drivers returned home during the pandemic and following the end of the transition period.”
Analysis of the latest ONS Labour Force Survey for the second quarter suggests that 14,000 EU lorry drivers left jobs in the UK in the year to June 2020, and only 600 had returned by July 2021. The two groups believe the overall HGV drivers’ shortfall is around 90,000.
The groups warn that the situation will worsen over the coming weeks, and the industry is fast approaching its busiest period – the build up to Christmas. And this fear has been borne out as more and more businesses have admitted to shortages including Arla, KFC, McDonald’s and Nando’s and the construction industry suffering from a brick shortage amongst other materials.
The two groups have called on the Government for three specific and urgent actions:
- Grant temporary work visas to HGV drivers from the European Union. This would be a short-term fix whilst a driver testing backlog is cleared and new drivers trained, however, this is something the Government has refused to do previously.
- Reform the National Skills Fund to enable HGV driver training to be funded. They also want increased flexibility in the Apprenticeship Levy, enabling “front-loading” of training to get trainees driving as soon as possible into the 12-month programme.
- Improve Covid testing facilities so HGV drivers can be tested daily to avoid having to self-isolate.
The Government Response
A government spokesperson said on Friday: “We recently announced a package of measures to help tackle the HGV driver shortage, including plans to streamline the process for new drivers to gain their HGV licence and to increase the number of tests able to be conducted.”
“We have also temporarily relaxed drivers’ hours rules to allow HGV drivers to make slightly longer journeys, but these must only be used where necessary and must not compromise driver safety.”
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