Dealing with the impact of the HGV driver shortage

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It’s been practically impossible to avoid the news in recent weeks about the HGV driver shortage and the significant impact it’s having on people’s lives. The long-running issue of staff shortages in the transport sector has reached a crisis point, leaving businesses and consumers to wonder where do we go from here.

Disruptions in the delivery chain have impacted supermarkets, restaurants and petrol pumps in recent months. It’s been predicted that these issues could continue for some time, affecting the run up to Christmas and the harsh winter.

What’s caused the driver shortage?

In order to meet the high demands needed throughout the country, the Road Haulage Association estimates the UK needs an extra 100,000 HGV operators. This unprecedented shortage has been bubbling away for a while, as retiring older drivers haven’t been replaced as quickly as is necessary.

Cost has also been a big factor. Training, tax changes and rising pay expectations have made it difficult for businesses to keep up with the necessary spending. In addition, conditions of roadside services and rest stops are in considerable need of improvement.

However, recent factors have compounded the problem even further. The COVID pandemic saw thousands of HGV driver tests cancelled last year and the post-Brexit relationship with the EU has left a lot of European drivers feeling they want to leave the UK.

Fixing the problem

Temporary visas are being planned to entice foreign drivers back to the UK in the run up to Christmas. Figures in the industry have criticised the measures, which only allow for up to 5,000 temporary visas – despite the 100,000 driver shortfall – whilst foreign drivers don’t feel that working for a limited time is worth the return.

The key priority for the haulage industry is to focus on training, apprenticeships and facilities for drivers. While there are currently no clear plans to address issues in roadside facilities, HGV driving tests are being relaxed in an effort to allow 50,000 more tests to be taken. However, this means stripping back on elements like reversing techniques and fast-tracking drivers who aren’t already licensed to drive smaller vehicles first.

These seem to be relatively quick fixes to a problem that has been rumbling on for a long time. It’s likely the country will experience a difficult winter with supply chain issues. Perhaps the stark reality will usher in an era of much needed changes that will improve conditions for HGV drivers and businesses in the near future.

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