The government is being urged to introduce temporary driver visas to EU recruits in a bid to ease the UK’s HGV driver shortage and supply chain problems
Logistics UK says that the government’s decision not to grant HGV drivers from the European Union temporary work visas has led to mounting pressure on the country’s supply chain.
And with a shortage of nearly 90,000 drivers, the UK’s interconnected supply chain will come under stress, but this could be relieved over the short-term, says the business organisation, if EU drivers were allowed temporary visas to join the workforce.
Alex Veitch, Logistics UK’s general manager of public policy, said: “Logistics has relied on EU drivers for many years, and their loss at the start of the year as a result of Brexit has hit the sector hard.
‘Outstanding HGV driver tests’
“While new drivers are trained and qualify – which can take up to nine months as the DVSA works through its backlog of outstanding HGV driver tests, it would be prudent for the government to enable temporary visas to be made available for European workers to return to supplement the domestic workforce.”
He added: “The government has already done this for agricultural workers through the Seasonal Worker Scheme, so the precedent has been set: and what is the point of allowing people in to pick the food, if it cannot be transported anywhere due to a lack of available staff?”
Mr Veitch said that they calculate that it would take until early 2022 to overcome the HGV driver testing backlog.
He pointed out that logistics workers and HGV drivers have acted as the ‘engine room’ of the UK’s economy throughout the pandemic, keeping homes and businesses supplied with what they need.
Extension of drivers’ hours rules
He said that the recent extension of drivers’ hours rules will not solve the current problems and the HGV driver testing backlog is unlikely to be cleared till the New Year.
He added: “Without an interim solution while new drivers are recruited, trained and tested, the current problems experienced across the country with out-of-stock items will continue.
“There are simply not enough qualified personnel available to do the jobs we rely on every day – we urge the government to be pragmatic and rethink its refusal to allow temporary visas for the sake of the UK economy.”
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) is also highlighting the time it will train enough drivers to overcome the current crisis.
Train 100,000 HGV drivers
The RHA says it will take at least 18 months to train 100,000 HGV drivers to meet demand.
The organisation’s chief executive, Richard Burnett, says the government needs to put several short-and long-term measures in place to help resolve the country’s supply chains.
The haulage organisation also wants HGV drivers to be placed on the government’s skilled worker shortage occupation list as a short-term stopgap so that EU drivers can be recruited.
And among the issues being highlighted by the organisation is a call for a rethink on how self-isolation will work for commercial vehicle drivers when they have been ‘pinged’ to stay at home.