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UK’s road haulage sector warned to improve conditions

Roads in the UK

The UK’s road haulage sector is being warned by MPs to improve conditions and facilities for lorry drivers – or face a new tax.

In a report, the Transport Committee says that radical surgery is needed to ensure the country’s road freight supply chain and its workforce are more robust and resilient.

They are also urging Ministers to give the logistics sector two years to deliver sufficient drivers, workers and facilities, including high-quality services and welfare.

Huw Merriman, chair of the Transport Committee, said: “We urge Government to be brave and force the sector to get its house in order. 

“A Supply Chain Levy has worked previously to incentivise reform. If the industry won’t deliver change, Government should do so and send them the bill via increased taxes to those who produce and sell and make the most profits.”

‘Employers’ treatment of HGV drivers’

He added: “This must be accompanied by minimum standards for planning, facilities and employers’ treatment of HGV drivers and seafarers. 

“It’s the least we can ask for those who work so hard to deliver our goods to us.”

In response, Logistics UK, the body representing logistics business groups, said that the Transport Select Committee has combined many complex issues to blame the industry for problems encountered across the supply chain for shortages in food and other products.

Chief executive, David Wells, said: “Logistics workers are the unsung heroes of the Covid-19 pandemic, keeping shops, schools, hospitals and locked-down families supplied with all the goods and medicines the country needed.

“To place all the blame for the supply chain issues facing our industry at our door does our workers a great disservice, and totally ignores the role which the government and other agencies have played in creating staff recruitment and retention problems across the sector.”

Significant issues affecting the industry

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) said it broadly welcomed the report and the committee’s focus on the significant issues affecting the industry.

In a statement, the RHA says: “Its recommendations are in line with many of the requests we’ve made.

“Whilst we support many of the Government’s 33 measures to deal with the HGV driver shortage, as the report highlights, many of these are limited, temporary measures and the systemic issues affecting the industry require long-term planning.

“With firms facing huge financial pressures, it’s unreasonable for the logistics sector to fund driver training alone, given the significant upfront cost, the acute shortage of drivers and the difficulties in retaining new drivers due to external factors.”

‘Another flashing warning light’

And Unite the union said the transport select committee report was ‘another flashing warning light’ for the UK’s haulage sector.

The union, which represents thousands of haulage drivers, says that the industry can no longer drag its heels on the need to tackle driver shortages, poor pay and a lack of decent on the road facilities that are causing workers to walk away from the sector.  

Sharon Graham, the union’s general secretary, said: “This report is another flashing warning light on the state of the road freight industry in this country.

“Unite has been at the forefront in driving up wages for the UK’s lorry drivers but much more needs to be done to stop drivers deserting the sector. The logistics giants need to stop hoarding the profits and start investing in the workforce.”

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