Lobby groups for the transport and retail industries have written to the government urging them to use work visas to alleviate the country’s lorry driver shortage.
Logistics UK, which represents UK freight firms, has joined with the British Retail Consortium and they have written to Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary.
They say that the country’s supply chains are now worsening because of the lorry driver shortage.
They are urging the government to review its decision not to grant a temporary work visa to EU-based drivers and to improve training.
The government says that haulage employers should be investing in British workers.
Temporary work visa
However, Logistics UK says that while Covid-19 and Brexit forced lorry drivers to leave the UK, a temporary work visa could help lure them back.
In their letter, they say that a shortage of 90,000 HGV drivers ‘is placing increasingly unsustainable pressure on retailers and their supply chains’.
They add: “While there was a shortage of HGV drivers prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, these two events have exacerbated the situation.”
The groups also highlight that around 25,000 EU drivers returned to their home countries during the Covid-19 pandemic and that HGV training and testing has been halted for more than a year.
The groups warn that the supply shortage is set to worsen over the coming weeks, particularly with the return of office workers to their places of employment and the start of the school year.
Increase in the number of deliveries
This means there will be an increase in the number of deliveries being made and the number of locations.
And, the trade groups highlight that with the build-up to Christmas fast approaching, the transport and retail sectors are heading for their busiest period.
Now, they are calling for three specific measures:
- The government must review its decision to not grant a temporary work visa to EU-based HGV drivers. Having a visa in place over the short term will help cover new drivers being trained and for the driver testing backlog to be cleared
- Reform of the National Skills Fund to help HGV drivers access training and to make the Apprenticeship Levy more flexible so trainees can be driving as soon as possible within a 12-month programme
- Improve Covid-19 testing facilities so that HGV drivers can be tested daily.
Lorry drivers from the EU
The Office for National Statistics in its labour force survey says that in the second quarter of this year, around 14,000 lorry drivers from the EU left their jobs in this country and by July, just 600 of them had returned.
A government spokesperson said: “The British people repeatedly voted to end free movement and take back control of our immigration system and employers should invest in our domestic workforce instead of relying on labour from abroad.
“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.”