Logistics UK chief executive David Wells pointed out that the industry was already taking proactive measures to address the shortages, which included increasing pay rates, offering bonuses and implementing internal training schemes.
In a letter written to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) co-signed by the BRC, he now called on the Government to step up and take immediate action to support supply chains.
“The current shortfall of around 90,000 HGV drivers is placing unsustainable pressure on retailers and their supply chains,” said Wells.
“While there was a shortage of HGV drivers prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, these two events have exacerbated the situation; the pandemic halted driver training and testing for more than 12 months, while an estimated 25,000 EU drivers returned home during the pandemic and following the end of the transition period.”
Three new polices
Wells urged the Government to adopt three policies immediately: increase DVSA’s testing capacity permanently so it can process the backlog of drivers tests placed on hold during the pandemic; ensure its skills and training schemes support the recruitment of HGV drivers; and review its decision not to grant temporary work visas to HGV drivers from the EU, as such drivers could supplement the domestic HGV workforce in the short-term.
Writing with Helen Dickenson OBE, the BRC’s Chief Executive, Wells added: “Logistics UK and BRC need BEIS to work with us to ensure the government provides a clear road map and tangible support for industry to ensure that our stores can continue to provide what the country needs every day.”
Logistics UK previously urged the Government to grant 10,000 temporary work visas to encourage EU drivers to return to support the UK’s supply chain. The group reported 14,000 EU HGV drivers left employment in the UK in the year to June 2020, with only 600 returning to work in the past year.
Alex Veitch, General Manager of Public Policy at Logistics UK explains, said: “The industry is working hard to recruit new drivers, with the implementation of new apprenticeships and other training schemes, and working with DVSA to speed up its testing regime, but these measures will take some time to produce new drivers.
“Our industry needs drivers now, and we are urging government to replicate its temporary visa scheme, introduced for agricultural workers, for logistics to keep trucks and vans moving in the short term.”
Agriculture scheme model
Logistics UK has pressed the Government to replicate the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme for logistics workers – the scheme has permitted up to 30,000 individuals to come to the UK on a so called T5 visa to work in agriculture for up to six months.
Currently, eight different short term work visa schemes are in place, for including for creative, sports and religious employees, as well as seasonal workers. However, none of these can be used for HGV drivers.
“While we wait for new recruits to complete their training – which can take up to nine months – the logical solution would be to introduce a temporary visa scheme to keep the vehicles moving,” Veitch added. “
“After all, there is no point in picking and packing food if there is no one available to move it to buyers.”
Meanwhile, food and drink firms need to reassess and optimise their supply chains in the face of the heavy goods vehicle (HGV) driver shortage, urged supply chain consultancy Scala.