UK GOVERNMENT TAKES MEASURES TO EASE DRIVER SHORTAGE CRISIS
On 25 September, the UK government announced several initiatives to tackle the shortage of HGV drivers, which is currently dangerously disrupting supply chains in the United Kingdom, with empty shelves and a shortage of petrol in refuelling stations. The objectives of these measures are to increase the number of new drivers, attract foreign drivers that left the UK following the Brexit as well as former drivers that left the industry.
The Department for Education will invest up to £10 million to create new skills bootcamps to train up to 3,000 more people to become HGV drivers. An additional 1,000 people are expected to be trained through courses accessed locally and funded by the government’s adult education budget. The Department of Transport is tasked to ensure that tests will be available for participants who have completed training courses as soon as possible, to help make sure new drivers will be operational as quickly as possible. Examiners from the Ministry of Defence will also be deployed to increase the testing capacity.
The department of Transport will also sent around one million letters to drivers who currently hold an HGV driving license to encourage those who have left the industry to return. The letter sets out that the steps the road haulage sector is taking to improve the industry, including increased wages, flexible working and fixed hours. In addition, the government will issue 5,000 HGV temporary visas for foreign drivers that will be able to come to the UK for 3 months in the run-up to Christmas, with the aim of providing short-term relief for the haulage industry.
The announcement was welcomed as a mean to ease the driver shortage crisis affecting the UK, but raised some questions, as the problem of driver shortages is widespread throughout Europe. The temporary visas are criticised by the industry, questioning whether foreign drivers would come to the UK for only three months and that visas will be only available for drivers that will be involved in food distribution. Charles Hogg, Commercial Director of freight forwarding company Unsworth welcomed in an interview with Lloyd’s Loading List the increased HGV driver testing capacity, but that is likely to take until April or May next year to recover from the Covid backlog. He added that it is inevitable that all this will result in price inflation as the logistics suppliers cannot absorb the extra costs.