The government has revealed plans to offer 5,000 temporary visas to lorry drivers from Europe to help tackle the UK’s HGV driver crisis.
Logistics UK welcomed the move with their policy director, Elizabeth de Jong, saying: “The decision to grant 5,000 temporary HGV driver visas to help overcome the driver shortage crisis in the short term is a huge step forward in solving the disruption to supply chains we are seeing today.
“We are so pleased the government has listened to our calls and has made this bold decision to support the UK economy.”
She added: “We are also pleased that, in addition to increasing DVSA HGV testing capacity, the government has listened to Logistics UK’s request for additional training support by providing funded courses to enable more people to qualify as HGV drivers.
“Alongside the current apprenticeship standard, this is fantastic news for recruiting more talent into the industry.”
Tackling the HGV driver shortfall
The government’s plans for tackling the HGV driver shortfall, there will also be free intensive HGV driver training places offered to 3,000 people on a new Skills Bootcamp that will be organised by the Department for Education.
These intensive, short courses will see trainee drivers gain Cat. C and C&E licences.
There will also be a further 1,000 places accessed locally by those wanting to become HGV drivers and their training will be funded from the government’s Adult Education budget.
The government is also paying for the medical costs and training for HGV qualifications that will be accessed through the Adult Education budget in 2021/22 – and backdated for those who have started training since August this year.
The head of the European Road Hauliers Association, Marco Digioia, told one newspaper that with Europe having its own driver shortage, he wasn’t sure how many drivers would want to come to the UK.
5,000 visa limit would do little
And Andrew Opie of the British Retail Consortium said that the 5,000 visa limit would do little to alleviate the shortfall.
He added: “5,000 drivers will help and make a difference, but we need more than that.”
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) says that the government’s plan had ‘surprised many’ and it has ‘limited scope’.
The government has also revealed plans to train 4,000 new HGV drivers by using military driving test examiners to help speed up the testing process.
They are also writing to those HGV drivers who have retired recently in a bid to tempt them back to work.
No plans to undercut British workers
The transport minister, Grant Shapps says he has no plans to undercut British workers by using people from abroad but says he could not stand by and watch while queues at petrol stations are forming.
Mr Shapps has also blamed the Road Haulage Association (RHA) for ‘irresponsible briefing’ that helped to trigger the panic buying of petrol.
The allegation comes after reports that someone in the RHA had leaked selective comments about HGV driver shortages at various fuel delivery firms.
However, Rod McKenzie, the organisation’s spokesman, said this was ‘absolute nonsense’.