Driver Shortage: Views from a lorry park
Written by Rod McKenzie, RHA Managing Director of Policy & Public Affairs
“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 we talked about the HGV driver shortage that’s hitting harder every day right across our industry.
Barry’s comments were echoed many times as I chatted to drivers at a truck stop today (19 May). 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 any of us who work 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.
I heard another example from a driver: “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 has had: feeling unwanted, rejected and unloved.
That’s got to stop.