Politics

Lorry driver shortage POLL: Whose fault is it? Brexit or the shops?

Brexit 'to blame' for lorry driver shortage says Dr Shola

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There is currently a shortage of 100,000 lorry drivers in the UK, which has meant that major brands have had to close their sites across the country, due to supply shortages. Among those worst effected are household name Nandos, who have had to shut 50 restaurants, some BP petrol garages have shut, Iceland are cancelling 30-40 deliveries a day, McDonald’s have had to stop serving milkshakes and bottled drinks, and Haribo are struggling to deliver to the UK.

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Travel restrictions caused by the pandemic meant many lorry drivers decided to change profession, and haulage companies say very few have returned.

During Christmas 2020 more than 10,000 lorries were stuck at Dover in Kent for over a week, unable to spend the holiday with their families due to mandatory covid testing restrictions.

But even before Covid, there was still a shortage of 60,000 lorry drivers – arguably due to Brexit policy changes.

Since Brexit, and the UK leaving the single market, the bureaucracy of crossing borders and long queues have meant many lorry drivers decided to work in other EU countries.

A large portion of lorry drivers are paid by the mile or kilometre rather than by the hour, so delays caused by Brexit means they are making the same amount of money in a much longer space of time.

Haulage companies want the Government to add drivers to the Shortage Occupations list, allowing them to qualify for a skilled worker visa and making border crossing far easier, but the Home Office is yet to approve the move.

The Home Office said in a statement: “The British people repeatedly voted to end free movement and take back control of our immigration system and employers should invest in our domestic workforce instead of relying on labour from abroad.”

The Government rejected a call to issue 10,000 temporary visas to EU workers, and ministers instead decided to relax driving test rules and legal driving hours, from nine to 11 per day.

Reports have now emerged that haulage companies have requested to use more day-release prisoners to drive lorries to fill the huge gap in the industry.

On the other side of the argument, political commentators are laying blame with employers for not paying a high enough wage to attract British people to start lorry driving.

Journalist Darren Grimes tweeted: “I find it distasteful for big supermarket groups to be calling on the Government to give them visas for lorry drivers from abroad, here’s a novel idea, how about you pay lorry drivers in this country a bit more and you’ll likely attract people to the long slog?”

Labour MP Jon Trickett tweeted: “Truck drivers are paid an average of just £11.80 an hour.

“Increase their pay properly and watch how quickly your ‘shortage’ disappears.”

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Some major companies, like supermarkets, have started to offer incentives, as meat processors are already six weeks behind in Christmas stock preperation and the situation is becoming more and more desperate by the week.

Tesco is offering drivers a £1,000 joining bonus, so are Waitrose on top of a pay rise of about £2 an hour, and Aldi has increased wages for drivers to earn up to £18.41 per hour.

HGV drivers hired through agencies have gone from earning £350 a day to a huge £800, and some are even offering joining incentives of up to £5000.

Craig Stevens, Managing Director at major logistics company STD Developments Ltd, said: “The drivers can command more money – the profitability of the transport industry is very small in normal circumstances and that means we’ll have to up prices for our customers.”

Haulage companies also want better conditions for drivers in general, and a recognition that they are a vital part of the economy.

READ MORE: Christmas toys are in short supply – families urged to buy early

Another problem the industry faces, is that not enough British young people are becoming lorry drivers.

The average age of a HGV driver in the UK is 55, and during the difficulties of Brexit and Covid, a huge percentage of drivers decided to retire, subsequently adding to the shortage.

Leader of Reform UK, Richard Tice, said “firms must pay drivers more,” as “higher wages will tempt UK retired drivers back”.

He said the UK “must not extend temporary visas to the EU”.

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But Remainers say this is a problem that was inevitable after Brexit.

One social media user wrote: “Road haulage is the lifeblood of the nation.

Almost everything we consume comes off the back of a lorry. Time for Brexiters to admit that they f**ked up.”

Do you think Brexit holds the largest blame for supply chain shortages, or are employers the culprits for not paying lorry drivers high enough wages? Vote now.

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