The Government needs to act immediately with funded training and seasonal visas to tackle a shortage of truck drivers, Logistics UK says.
The organisation points to more than 45,000 HGV driver tests that are outstanding at the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) because of the Covid-19 lockdown.
This means that the government must introduce a seasonal visa for HGV drivers from the European Union to protect the country’s supply chain.
The organisation says it is imperative that the DVSA catches up with its driver testing backlog as soon as possible.
‘All driving tests were suspended’
The chief executive of Logistics UK, David Wells, said: “During the COVID-19 pandemic, understandably, all driving tests were suspended leaving a huge backlog of potential drivers wishing to enter the logistics industry.
“At the same time, 79,000 European logistics workers returned to their home countries – and this, combined with an existing shortage of HGV drivers of more than 76,000 individuals, has meant that haulage firms are now struggling to recruit new drivers – a problem which will be exacerbated by summer holidays for those who have worked so tirelessly throughout the pandemic.”
Logistics UK points to a recent move that saw the government granting temporary visa status for agricultural workers to ensure that crops were picked.
The organisation says that drivers need a temporary visa status to move this food that has been picked and taken to where it is needed – or face a supply chain that breaks down.
Mr Wells added: “Our members urgently need drivers to be available now while the DVSA catches up with the backlog of outstanding driving tests. Without this temporary cover, there is a very real risk to the availability of the food and other vital items on which we rely during the summer months.”
Backlog of HGV driving examinations
The DVSA says it will take several months for them to catch up with the current backlog of HGV driving examinations.
The agency estimates that it can undertake 118,000 HGV driving tests for the rest of this year – leaving a short-term gap of newly qualified drivers.
Mr Wells said: “Even before the loss of our EU workers, logistics was suffering from a chronic shortage of drivers. It takes time and money to train new recruits to be ready to enter our highly regulated industry, but with many people suffering the effects of the current economic downturn, this cost can be prohibitive.
“We need the government to prioritise the implementation of funded training to open the industry up to as many people as possible, to counteract the long-term recruitment issues which logistics has faced for many years and attract a new generation of drivers and other employees to the sector as older personnel retire and leave the industry.”
Logistics UK which represents logistics businesses around the country says that more than 7 million people are employed directly in the selling, making and moving of goods.
However, while logistics has never been more important, new technology, the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit means the industry is having to cope with a number of issues – including a drop in the number of qualified HGV drivers.