The UK government has announced a package of measures aimed at tackling the UK HGV driver shortage. Just weeks after the industry issued warnings about inevitable stock shortages at Christmas, the shortage of drivers has now led to long queues at petrol stations due to the swift onset of panic buying.
These new measures, the government says, will ease the risk of shortages and limit disruption at Christmas:
- The Department for Education (DfE) is investing up to £10 million in order to create new skills bootcamps to train up 3,000 more people to become HGV drivers
- An additional 1,000 people are expected to be trained through courses accessed locally and funded by the government’s adult education budget
- The government will work with the industry to ensure fuel tanker drivers can access the additional safety qualifications they need as quickly as possible
- To help make sure new drivers can be road ready as quickly as possible, the Department for Transport (DfT) have agreed to work with the Driver and Vehicles Standards Agency (DVSA) to ensure that tests will be available to participants who have completed training courses as soon as possible
- The Ministry of Defence (MOD) will immediately deploy their Defence Driving Examiners (DDEs) to increase the UK’s testing capacity; MOD examiners will work alongside DVSA examiners over the next 12 weeks
- Having worked alongside the DfT, the DVLA has sent 1 million letters to thank HGV drivers for their vital role supporting the economy, and to encourage those who have left the industry to return
- 5,000 visas will be issued to HGV drivers who will be able to come to the UK for 3 months in the run-up to Christmas, providing short-term relief for the haulage industry
Recruitment for the additional HGV drivers – alongside 5,500 poultry workers – is set to begin in October, and visas will be valid until 24th December 2021. The government has, however, stressed that it wants to see investments in the UK domestic workforce and that visas will not be a long-term solution.
Speaking of the new measures, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “This package of measures builds on the important work we have already done to ease this global crisis in the UK, and this government continues to do everything we can to help the haulage and food industries contend with the HGV driver shortage.
“We are acting now but the industries must also play their part with working conditions continuing to improve and the deserved salary increases continuing to be maintained in order for companies to retain new drivers.”
While some within the industry have said the plan to offer temporary visas to foreign lorry drivers will not make a huge difference to the skills shortage, others have welcomed the plan as “a big step for government.”
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