Brexit: Ian Watson explains new measures EU lorry drivers
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The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) has found the number of lorry drivers in the UK has fallen by 53,000 over the last four years. The downturn has been driven by a lack of British HGV drivers, with 44,000 UK nationals leaving the occupation in the since 2017.
The ONS noted the shortfall in the labour force was felt hardest among middle-aged men.
UK supply chains have been rocked by the labour shortage and has contributed to empty supermarket shelves as well as the panic-buying of fuel.
Firms have offered lucrative signing-up offers to recruit younger workers, while the Government has issued short-term visas for overseas workers to help alleviate the problems over the Christmas period.
Issues faced in the UK have also been repeated in Europe as supply chain bottlenecks emerge around the world.
The annual ONS survey estimated the number of HGV drivers working in the UK had fallen by 17 percent to 268,000 in the year to June.
This is down from a peak of 321,000 in 2016-17.
The ONS noted an ageing workforce, a lack of EU drivers and increased costs have contributed to the crisis in the haulage industry.
Official data suggests nearly a third of all hauliers in the UK were aged 56 or over in 2020-21.
Meanwhile, just under 20 percent were aged between 19 and 35.
A record number of lorry driver vacancies have been advertised by firms and reached 52,000 in the three months to September – up by 49 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels.
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) has recognised the need for the industry to attract a younger demographic.
Rod McKenzie, head of policy and public affairs at the RHA, said: “We have always said the long term solution to the driver crisis lies with recruiting a new generation of British drivers.”
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The RHA has welcomed the decision by the Government to make 5,000 visas available for oversees workers, but Mr McKenzie said the solution is “only ever a short term measure”.
The coronavirus pandemic also forced many smaller haulage firms to shut and let employees go.
Others were placed on the furlough scheme, which paid 80 percent of an employees’ wage, but many were also forced to seek a new career in order to make ends meet.
Mr McKenzie said: “During the lockdown many drivers who were furloughed in non-essential sectors like retail decided to move into other jobs and they have not returned.”
Duncan Buchanan, the director at the RHA, addressed MPs on the Business Select Committee on Tuesday and warned it may take another 12 months for the industry to bounce back.
He added: “Things are very challenged at the moment.
“There are widespread shortages of lorry drivers, which are leading to delays and frustrated trips.
“Among our members we are still getting reports that this hasn’t eased at all.
“Things are not visibly getting better at this stage and I know there are a number of measures that have been put in place – stepping up training, stepping up tests – but on the ground that isn’t having much of an effect.”
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