Against the backdrop of the ongoing shortage of HGV drivers, two of the UK’s biggest business groups, Logistics UK and British Retail Consortium (BRC), on 22 August 2021 wrote to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to outline key three steps the government can take to overcome the problem and protect the supply chain.
The groups, which together represent more than 23,000 members nationwide, claim the crisis is set to worsen in the coming months as demand for goods increases with the new school year starting, businesses returning to their workplaces post-COVID-19 restrictions, and the build-up to Christmas beginning.
In a letter to Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP, the Secretary of State at BEIS, David Wells, the Chief Executive of Logistics UK, explained that retail and logistics industries are taking proactive measures to address the driver shortage challenge. These include increasing pay rates, offering bonuses and implementing internal training schemes. However, the UK government must take immediate action to support the supply chains.
“The current shortfall of around 90,000 HGV drivers is placing unsustainable pressure on retailers and their supply chains. 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.”
“Logistics UK and BRC are urging the government to adopt three policies immediately. First, to increase DVSA’s testing capacity permanently so the agency is able to process the backlog of driver tests placed on hold during the pandemic – this has left thousands of aspiring HGV drivers unable to join the workforce. The government should also 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, while the testing backlog is cleared, and new drivers are trained and become qualified. Third, industry needs government to ensure its skills and training schemes support the recruitment of HGV drivers, by reforming the National Skills Fund to fund HGV driver training and injecting flexibility into the Apprenticeship Levy.”