Driver shortage crisis: UK business groups demand action
Sunday 22 August 2021
As the ongoing shortage of HGV drivers continues to affect the logistics and retail sectors, two of the UK’s biggest business groups, Logistics UK and British Retail Consortium (BRC) have today (22 August 2021) written to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to outline key three steps the government can take to overcome the problem and protect the supply chain. According to the groups, which together represent more than 23,000 members nationwide, the crisis is anticipated to worsen in the coming months as demand for goods increases with the new school year starting, businesses returning to their workplaces post-Covid-19 restrictions, and the build-up to Christmas beginning – traditionally the peak time for logistics movements.
Writing to Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP, the Secretary of State at BEIS, David Wells, the Chief Executive of Logistics UK, explained that retail and logistics industries are taking proactive measures to address the driver shortage challenge – including increasing pay rates, offering bonuses, and implementing internal training schemes – but the government must take immediate action to support supply chains:
“The current shortfall of around 90,000 HGV drivers is placing unsustainable pressure on retailers and their supply chains. 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 14,000 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 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 and become qualified. 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 injecting flexibility into the Apprenticeship Levy.”
Writing with Helen Dickenson OBE, the BRC’s Chief Executive, Mr 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 that our stores can continue to provide what the country needs every day.”
Logistics UK is one of the UK’s leading business groups, representing logistics businesses which are vital to keeping the UK trading, and more than seven million people directly employed in the making, selling and moving of goods. With COVID-19, Brexit, new technology and other disruptive forces driving change in the way goods move across borders and through the supply chain, logistics has never been more important to UK plc. Logistics UK supports, shapes and stands up for safe and efficient logistics, and is the only business group which represents the whole industry, with members from the road, rail, sea and air industries, as well as the buyers of freight services such as retailers and manufacturers whose businesses depend on the efficient movement of goods.