Will the Turkeys Come Home to Roost this Christmas?

empty-shelves-JDIt’s been going on for years. Yet progress on the HGV driver shortage crisis took another knock last week when the government rejected standards for a Trailblazer HGV driving apprenticeship for a third time.

Last year the then transport secretary warned, with six weeks to go to Christmas,  that the public should make sure they shop early to not be disappointed by a potential supply line crisis affected by a lack of drivers.

Fortunately Christmas 2014 went by without any major hitches, but it begs the question, what about 2015? Will families be without their festive goods and foods this December?  Will it be the year that the chickens come home to roost for this government as it realizes the seriousness of the crisis? Currently the gravitas of the situation doesn’t seem to be sinking in.

The worry caused by last December’s potential problems were sufficient for George Osborne to announce in March that emergency cash could be found to avoid a chronic shortage of lorry drivers leading to a crisis in food supplies. Yet by the budget this month, the shortage of some tens of thousands of drivers seems to have fallen well down the list of priorities. The Chancellor actually ignored the crisis with no plans for funding forthcoming.

So last week’s refusal to establish a much needed apprenticeship programme for HGV drivers is just another spanner, in a series of spanners, in the works. It also puts paid to more than a year of work by a trailblazing industry-led group of employers, supported by the Freight Transport Association (FTA), Road Haulage Association (RHA) and the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT).

Motor Transport reported that FTA skills development manager Sally Gilson is “desperately disappointed” by the government’s decision, also urging the Department for Business Innovation and Skills to rethink its decision. Meanwhile RHA director of policy Jack Semple told the same industry magazine that he was “astonished” by the decision not to allow the apprenticeship, also adding that “it will be a kick in the teeth for the whole industry.”

We are passionate about this topic and gave our opinion earlier this year when we spoke to more than 600 delegates at the FTA’s one day summit to tackle the issue. We also support the RHA led industry delegation which last month delivered a petition to the Prime Minister, urging the government to act.

The longer this HGV driver shortage goes on, the greater the likelihood of a significant impact to consumers as well as hauliers.