Funded training vital to ease driver skill shortage
By Sarah Wood
Food supplies could be at risk this summer, according to Logistics UK, without urgent support for the logistics industry.
With more than 45,000 HGV driver tests outstanding at DVSA as a result of Covid-19 lockdowns, Logistics UK is urging government to introduce a seasonal visa for European HGV drivers to protect the UK supply chain, while the organisation catches up with this backlog.
David Wells, chief executive of Logistics UK, said: "During the Covid-19 pandemic, understandably, all driving tests were suspended, leaving a huge backlog of potential drivers wishing to enter the logistics industry. At the same time, 79,000 European logistics workers returned to their home countries.
"This, combined with an existing shortage of HGV drivers of more than 76,000, has meant that haulage firms are now struggling to recruit new drivers - a problem which will be exacerbated by summer holidays for those who have worked so tirelessly throughout the pandemic.
"The government recently granted temporary visa status for agricultural workers, to ensure that important crops are picked and made available for UK consumers. But without temporary visa status for the drivers to move this food to where it is needed, the supply chain will break down at the first hurdle. The two sectors work hand in hand and should be treated in the same way.
"Our members urgently need drivers to be available now while DVSA catches up with the backlog of outstanding driving tests. Without this temporary cover, there is a very real risk to the availability of the food and other vital items on which we rely during the summer months."
DVSA estimates that it can carry out 118,000 HGV driver tests in the remainder of 2021, but it will take months to catch up on the backlog of outstanding examinations.
David Wells continued: "Even before the loss of our EU workers, logistics was suffering from a chronic shortage of drivers. It takes time and money to train new recruits to be ready to enter our highly regulated industry, but with many people suffering the effects of the current economic downturn, this cost can be prohibitive.
"We need government to prioritise funded training to open the industry up to as many people as possible, to counteract the long-term recruitment issues which logistics has faced for many years, and attract a new generation of drivers and other employees to the sector as older personnel retire and leave the industry."
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