Visas for foreign HGV drivers to work in the UK hauling petrol have been extended.
The news follows an announcement that military drivers are also now taking to the road to ensure petrol deliveries take place.
The Government says there are 300 immediate visas being offered to foreign lorry drivers and they can remain in the country until the end of March.
This will be a ‘temporary move’ and not a long-term solution and the Government is again urging British employers to invest in a British workforce.
Foreign food haulage drivers
Also, some of the 4,700 visas that had been earmarked for foreign food haulage drivers to take up jobs in the UK, will also be extended.
This move will see the visas running to the end of February.
Ministers have also acted to extend the deadline for the temporary visas of 5,500 poultry workers recruited overseas amid growing fears that there will be a shortage of Christmas turkeys and food on supermarket shelves.
Previously, these visas were meant to end on Christmas Eve but will now run until 31 December.
Supply of fuel has remained a problem
And following Friday’s announcement from the Petrol Retailers’ Association that the supply of fuel has remained a problem, they say that for people in the south-east of England, the situation has ‘got worse’.
But from today more than 200 military drivers will be offering temporary support to help ease pressure on the country’s forecourts where queues are a regular sight.
The military drivers have now completed their specialised training in driving fuel tankers and are now accompanying regular tanker drivers while they’re on their deliveries.
A number of haulage firms have helped to train the military drivers, including fuel logistics outfit, Hoyer.
Country needs 90,000 HGV drivers
Logistics UK says the country needs 90,000 HGV drivers and blames poor working conditions, low wages, an ageing workforce, Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Government is also highlighting that while most foreign drivers will be recruited from Europe, those eligible are not restricted to the European Union.
Other measures to tackle what could be potential disruption in the run-up to the festivities have also been revealed, including:
- Writing to 1 million people holding an HGV licence in a bid to encourage them to return to the industry
- Boosting HGV testing capacity
- Offering training courses for HGV drivers.
Warning to road haulage employers
However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeated his warnings to road haulage employers that it cannot rely on cheap immigrant labour.
He said that he wanted to end the country’s reliance on hiring low-wage foreign workers and for the country to become a highly productive, well-skilled and well-paid economy.
The Prime Minister said that the situation over food and fuel shortages will be kept under review, and he added: “We basically allowed the road haulage industry to be sustained with a lot of low-wage immigration that meant that wages didn’t go up and the quality of the job didn’t go up.
“The weird thing is now that people don’t want to go into the road haulage industry, don’t want to be lorry drivers, precisely because you have that mass immigration approach that held wages down, that held the quality of the job down.”