Government should grant temporary visas to tackle shortage of heavy truck drivers
The government is expected to announce temporary measures, such as short-term work visas, to allow foreign heavy truck drivers to work in the UK.
The UK is currently short of more than 100,000 drivers, slowing the delivery of essentials such as food and gasoline.
The Office for National Statistics said millions of people are faced with empty supermarket shelves, with one in six currently struggling to find essentials.
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Ministers had urgent discussions on how to address the shortage on Friday, and plans are expected to be presented on Sunday.
The British Retail Consortium has warned that Christmas disruptions are “inevitable” if the issue is not resolved within ten days.
BP said yesterday that between 50 and 100 of its 1,200 stations have been affected by the loss of at least one grade of fuel, with around 20 currently closed due to a lack of supply.
Yesterday the EG Group, which operates 341 service stations in the UK, introduced a spending limit of £ 30 “due to current unprecedented customer demand for fuel”.
However, the AA said the majority of forecourts in the UK were functioning normally.
Yesterday, Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News that the driver shortage “will abate fairly quickly” as more heavy-duty test drives become available.
He insisted that “the problem is not new”, arguing: “There has been a shortage of drivers for many months during this pandemic because during the lockdown, the drivers could not pass the tests. of heavy goods vehicles from their truck, and that’s what led to this problem. ”
Shadow Transportation Secretary Jim McMahon criticized Shapps’ comments via Twitter, saying: “The Conservatives have been in power for over a decade. They let down the trucking industry by failing to value working class jobs, allowing a race to the bottom in wages and working conditions.
“Now businesses and consumers are paying the price in the supermarket and in the forecourt. The total mess.
A Downing Street spokesman said the government was considering “temporary measures to avoid any immediate problems, but any measures we introduce will be very strictly time-limited.”
She stressed that there are “many stocks of fuel in this country and the public should be reassured that there is no shortage” and claimed the problem was a “temporary shortage related to Covid” experienced in the world.
Marco Digioia, secretary general of the European Road Haulers Association, which represents more than 70 percent of EU trucking companies, said a visa regime is unlikely to solve shortages in the UK, saying : “I expect that many drivers will not return to the UK even if the UK government allows them.”
He continued: “While offering visas to drivers on the continent would be a welcome step, there are many other issues, such as working conditions, pay and the costs of entering and working in the UK. . ”
While hands-on heavy truck training takes five days, the entire process, including acquiring a license, takes eight to ten weeks. There remains a backlog of 40,000 people awaiting heavy-duty tests.
Around 25,000 EU national heavy truck drivers left the UK for good in 2020.
The current heavyweight workforce has an average age of 57 years.