The Driver Shortage – drivers have their say
RHA MD for Policy & Public Affairs, Rod McKenzie, visited a truck park on the M40 to get, first-hand, the views of truck drivers as regards the driver shortage.
“We’re not welcome, we got the country through Covid, now they don’t care anymore.”
This was the view of Barry, a career trucker, when talking about the HGV driver shortage that’s hitting harder every day right across our industry.
Barry’s comments were echoed many times. Others blamed the loss of European colleagues after Brexit, inconsistent pay, the role of agencies in the industry, and poor parking and welfare provision for overnight and longer stops.
None of this will be a surprise to anyone working in the industry, but increasingly the impact of these issues is being felt more widely – and among customers, too.
One haulage firm had to park up 80 trucks recently because there weren’t the drivers available to move them.
Another driver said: “I am one of only two drivers on the road today, the rest of our fleet is parked up because the boss can’t find any drivers. I’m worried we will lose business.”
The RHA has some clear asks of Government to help improve this dire situation, and we have contacted several Cabinet Ministers about them:
• Apprenticeships are not fit for our sector. We need something that works for us and meets the high cost of new driver training,
• Priority driving tests for vocational drivers. No more delays, the backlog must be cleared,
• Tackling the C plus E apprenticeship funding gap,
• A shorter HGV driver training scheme for SME operators with salary repayment over time, like student loans,
• Truckers to be put on the Shortage Occupation list to allow recruitment of foreign drivers,
• Addressing the inconsistency and confusion around the IR35 tax changes,
• Extend seasonal worker scheme to cover lorry drivers, to allow European cover.
Clearly, extending drivers’ hours is not the way to go. While it is often a sticking plaster used by Government, it is just that: a sticking plaster. We need surgery.
There are other things that are very much part of the debate we as an industry need to have: pay is one of them. Flexible working is another, and we all need to be better at promoting the industry. That’s why we’re running our RHA Heroes campaign to salute the great work that we do as an industry.
We also believe the anti-lorry rhetoric that comes from politicians, often under the guise of “green politics”, is unhelpful and leads to the experience Barry had feeling unwanted, rejected, and unloved.
That’s got to stop.
HGV drivers must be included on the UK ‘Shortage Occupation’ list says RHA
The RHA has urged ministers to add HGV drivers to Home Office UK Shortage Occupation List to help fix the growing driver shortage.
RHA Chief Executive, Richard Burnett told Grant Shapps that Government needed to do more to help the industry recruit new talent as the driver shortage exceeds 60,000.
Haulage firms struggle to get access to Apprenticeship Levy money to fund training, and the shutdown of vocational driving tests last year saw a loss of more than 30,000 test slots. New IR35 tax rules have seen some firms cancel deliveries as they can’t get agency drivers.
In a letter to the Transport Secretary, he said the industry is facing a perfect storm and warned that a growing driver shortage will hit the supply chain and affect the Government’s plans to ‘build back better’ as hospitality opens up again.
“If we do not do something soon the industry will be unable to maintain the integrated supply chains and cope with artificial spikes caused by hot weather and the easing of lockdown, increasing demand for food and drink into supermarkets, pubs and restaurants and goods into retail outlets.”
He said easing allowing HGV drivers from abroad to live and work in the UK would help in the short term but he warned against relaxing drivers hours amid concerns that truckers are already working to their limits and are exhausted. “We really need to consider the impact of HGV driver mental health and of course road safety.”
He urged ministers help the industry resolve the driver shortage in the longer term. “We must work collectively and towards a sustainable way to recruit and train a homegrown workforce so our reliance on foreign labour lessens over time.”