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RHA reveals plans to combat driver shortage

The Government is playing 'Russian roulette' with road users' safety, a union claims.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) has unveiled an action plan that it claims will help combat the crisis in driver recruitment.

They say that the haulage sector is short of 65,000 trained drivers which will affect the cost and speed of deliveries across the UK.

The Association has now written to the government and is calling for specific measures to be implemented to help the road transport sector avoid future issues.

The RHA has also outlined the reasons it believes there is a driver shortage currently – many of which they say are long-standing problems.

The letter to the government highlights changes around IR35, Brexit, the Covid-19 lockdown and training costs among the current reasons for transport firms struggling to recruit drivers.

Government to help the industry

The industry body says there are 12 key action points – listed below – that must now be implemented for the government to help the industry.

The RHA’s chief executive, Richard Burnett, said: “We must work collectively towards a sustainable way to recruit and train a homegrown workforce so the reliance on foreign labour will lessen over time.”

He added that unless drastic action is taken soon, the transport sector will no longer be able to maintain supply chains.

Mr Burnett said: “The easing of lockdown and the hot weather will increase demand for drink and food into supermarkets, restaurants and pubs and goods into retail outlets.”

He also pointed out that the pandemic lockdown led to the loss of 12 months of driver training and testing.

Recruitment and retaining of lorry drivers

Mr Burnett said the hostility from government and authorities is also not helping the recruitment and retaining of lorry drivers.

The bottom line, the RHA says, is that freight rates are rising to a point where operators will find this unsustainable, and their costs will then have to be passed on to their customers.

Mr Burnett said: “We need the government to address the driver shortage and while we welcome an increase in HGV apprenticeship funding to £7,000, this will barely scratch the surface of the problem.”

The RHA’s call has been supported by haulage firms around the country, including Ian Jarman of the Owens Group in Llanelli who told BBC News that more action needs to be taken.

He said: “If this doesn’t improve in the coming months, there possibly could be delivery shortages.”

The Road Haulage Association has now published a short survey for transport operators to highlight how the shortage of drivers is having an impact on their business.

RHA’s 12-point plan

The RHA’s 12-point plan covers the following:

  • Include HGV drivers on Government’s Skilled Worker Shortage Occupation List
  • Coronavirus recovery – a seasonal visa scheme for qualified HGV drivers
  • Continued priority driving tests for HGV drivers
  • Establish a ‘Return to HGV Driving’ scheme
  • Better promotion of the job and the sector as a whole
  • Apprenticeship funding gap for C+E drivers in England and Wales
  • Apprenticeships for Class C drivers
  • An SME-focused HGV driver training scheme
  • An independent HGV training loan scheme
  • Other training schemes – DWP pilots/Road to Logistics
  • Increase productivity of the road network
  • Improve site productivity and the treatment of drivers at collection and delivery points.

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