The government has reportedly rejected calls to install temporary visas which would allow HGV drivers from the EU to help alleviate the current shortfall of drivers in the UK.
According to the Financial Times, ministers rejected the idea put forward by two industry bodies but have backed calls to increase the training available to potential drivers.
It comes after two of the UK’s largest business groups, Logistics UK and British Retail Consortium (BRC) penned a letter 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.
David Wells, chief executive of Logistics UK, said: “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 25,000 EU drivers returned home during the pandemic and following the end of the transition period.”
Outlining the three key steps, he added: “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 the 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.”