Business uncertainty around Brexit remains high, with potential disruption to our supply chain and rising trade costs topping the list of concerns. The Brexit debacle, coupled with ongoing driver shortages, and the lack of a joined-up approach to clean air zones, are key issues that I would urge our new Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps MP, to address, as he reviews his new portfolio.
Provide clarity on Brexit and support free-flowing trade
Fleet operators and hauliers need to continue to move goods freely across borders and workable and practical procedures need to be put in place to support this trade.
The business sector is already experiencing the economic impact of Brexit limbo with investment and many major projects stagnating as businesses contemplate the fall-out from a no-deal Brexit – and potentially, one of the most seismic shifts in UK trading conditions we have ever experienced.
There is also a palpable sense of frustration among our customers, the fleet operators who are the backbone of the transport sector, moving the goods that we all depend on, through the UK and across European borders. They remain unclear as to what is expected of them, and how new customs, safety and security procedures are likely to impact on them, in the event of a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.
Engage with industry to solve shortages
The shortage of drivers and the ageing profile of the workforce is not news. Many factors are contributing to the problem including poor work life balance, facilities and negative industry perceptions. A lack of vocational training and the cost of acquiring the necessary licences are also thought to be barriers to a career as a HGV driver. With many UK-based drivers hailing from the EU, Brexit has also exacerbated the problem.
Providing government support for targeted training, taster opportunities and careers advice to appeal to ‘would-be drivers’ at a younger age, is critical. Encouraging a more diverse workforce and improving roadside facilities will also go a long way towards improving the public perception of the industry.
Clear the air – coordinate clean air/low emission policy
Air pollution is a major issue for the public and for policymakers, but both national and local government have singularly failed to come up with any adequate or coordinated response to address the challenge.
Fleet operators and hauliers are understandably bemused and angered at the range of conflicting policies in operation across the UK, which sees them travel from one city to the next, to encounter entirely different local government-imposed rules and regulations. A credible, equitable and joined-up strategy needs to be delivered to improve air quality and reduce emissions.
We wish Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps MP, every success and look forward to working alongside him to support the transport and logistics industry and resolve some of its most pressing challenges.