The RHA has urged ministers to add HGV drivers to the Home Office UK Shortage Occupation List to help fix the growing driver shortage.
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.
He said: “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.”
Easing rules to allow 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 said.
He urged ministers to 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.”