Foreign lorry drivers plan 'too little, too late' says Welsh haulier

PA Images
Credit: PA

A plan to give 5,000 foreign lorry drivers temporary visas to work in the UK is "too little, too late" according to a Welsh haulier.

The UK Government announced a temporary visa scheme that will see 5,000 foreign HGV drivers and 5,500 poultry workers allowed in the UK on three-month contracts up to Christmas Eve in an attempt to keep supermarket shelves stocked and tackle fuel delivery issues.

Petrol stations across Wales have run dry amid panic buying and hauliers have criticised the government for not doing enough to solve the problem

Ian Owen, managing director of Llanelli based haulage company Owens Group, said: "It's only 5% of the problem. the whole industry across the whole of the UK has got an shortage of 100,000 HGV drivers.

"To all of a sudden come up with a 5,000 figure and expect them to come back into the country and work up until Christmas Eve - I just don't know what the thought process is.

"It's simply too little too late in our eyes."

The UK Government's Transport Secretary has defended the plan and accused haulage groups of sparking petrol station queues.

Grant Shapps said the queues and closures at fuel stations were a "manufactured situation" created by the Royal Haulage Association leaking comments from BP bosses about supplier concerns.

But Mr Owen said his industry has been lobbying the government for months to address the driver shortage.

Credit: PA

The Petrol Retailers Association said panic buying had created "serious problems" for stock levels, and "anywhere in between 50% and 90% of its members' forecourts had run out of fuel.

The boss of the European Road Haulers Association, which represents more than two-third of trucking companies across the EU, said he did not think he offer would send driver flocking back to the UK

General secretary Marco Digioia said "until the UK offers the same pay and working conditions as driver have in the EU then many will stay away."