'Not a cat in hell's chance' - Haulage industry on government's solution to HGV driver shortages

ITV News Business Editor Joel Hills reports on troubles in the haulage industry

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is to announce plans to accelerate the training of HGV drivers in an attempt to prevent supply outages in the run-up to Christmas. Supermarkets, retailers, farms, food producers and logistics companies have been warning that supply chains are at breaking point due to a severe shortage of drivers for months. I’ve been given a copy of a briefing note that the government has circulated to Conservative MPs ahead of the Thursday announcement.

'HGV Driver Shortages' briefing note. Credit: ITV News

If shows that, in addition to expanding testing capacity at the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, there are now plans to also allow drivers to obtain their articulated lorry licence without first having to qualify to drive smaller “rigid” lorries. The briefing note says these changes “will get HGV drivers back on the road”. Unfortunately, the industry disagrees.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) estimates that the changes might enable around 300 people a week to qualify as articulated, lorry drivers but it says there is a current shortage of between 90,000 and 100,000. "The news from government is a step in the right direction,” says Richard Burnett, CEO of the RHA.

“But we haven't got a cat in hell's chance of solving this problem unless we have access to temporary foreign labour in the short term to recruit a UK-based workforce for the longer term."

Richard Burnett, CEO of the RHA, responds to the government's solution

The government is under pressure to make it easier for companies to bring in HGV drivers from abroad but seems determined to resist. Partly because the government argues that other countries have driver shortages too. Partly because it wants these vacancies filled by British workers. And partly because issuing visas might create the impression that Brexit is somehow responsible for the driver shortages, in addition to the pandemic. Most companies, of course, will tell you that Brexit is part of the problem.