Logistics UK and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) have penned a joint open letter to Kwasi Kwarteng MP, secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS) about the current HGV driver shortage.
Logistics UK calculates that the driver shortage now stands at around 90,000 and that it is a business-wide rather than just a sectoral issue, which if left unaddressed, could start to impact on the whole economy.
According to Logistics UK and the BRC, which together represent more than 23,000 retailers and freight transport firms, the crisis is going to worsen over the coming months as schools and offices reopen and Black Friday and the Christmas period increase demand for goods and services.
“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.
“Logistics UK and BRC are urging the government to adopt three policies immediately. First, to increase DVSA’s (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) 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.
“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 inject flexibility into the Apprenticeship Levy.”
BRC’s chief executive, Helen Dickenson & 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 our stores can continue to provide what the country needs every day.”