In what appears to be a national emergency, the British government has relaxed immigration rules by issuing temporary visas for skilled HGV drivers. HGV (Heavy Goods Vehicles) drivers represent a significant part of the haulage industry that distributes fuel and food around the United Kingdom.
It has been reported that the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson would potentially authorize a temporary visa scheme covering up to 10,000 foreign workers, in order to ease a shortage of lorry drivers that has caused widespread disruption in the fuel “crisis.”
Although the British Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps has insisted there is “plenty of fuel” and urged the public to be “sensible” as some retailers were forced to shut their pumps and ration sales after facing long queues at petrol stations for days now.
It appears the situation would exacerbate as most of the HGV drivers have left to the European Union post-Brexit and others have left the industry citing the lack of training and pecuniary incentives.
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According to a report released by Driver Require, the problem has been forthcoming and the industry blames the government for lack of foresight in preventing this imbroglio. The report blames this shortage on:
- Reduced inflow of new HGV drivers due to restricted HGV training capacity during lockdowns.
- Increased outflow of HGV drivers due to:
- Retirement of HGV drivers
- EU HGV drivers leaving the UK because of COVID-19 and subsequently implementation of IR35 reforms in the Private Sector.
- Drivers seeking other careers due to poor pay and conditions.
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The Road Haulage Association (RHA), the industry’s trade body, has estimated that the United Kingdom has a shortage of more than 100,000 drivers and if the Government does not resolve this situation expeditiously the supply chain problem would worsen. The Government has reacted by proposing to train up to 4,000 people as new HGV drivers to help tackle skills shortages and support more people to launch careers within the logistics sector. In addition to this measure, the Government would send nearly 1 million letters to be sent to all drivers who currently hold an HGV driving license, encouraging them back into the industry. In preparation for Christmas, 5,000 HGV drivers and 5,500 poultry workers added to the existing visa scheme until Christmas 2021 to ease supply chain pressures in food and haulage industries during exceptional circumstances this year.
Boris Johnson and his government have looked into industry demands to issue visas to foreign truck drivers, as the crisis that has led to empty supermarket shelves and panic-buying at petrol stations threatens to undermine his government. This interesting development has led to talk of fuel stations increasing pump prices to prevent hoarding and panic-buying.
Haulage firms are offering up to £55,000 plus benefits and bonuses for drivers distributing food, fuel and deliveries across the UK.
Some other companies are reported to be offering a £1,500 sign-on bonus to anyone who joins, with a salary of £35,000 a year.
Trainee drivers, without an HGV licence, can earn £24,000 rising to £32,000 once they’re qualified with Nationwide Platforms with full driver training provided.
In other advertisements seen, Class 1 drivers who are ‘urgently needed’ will be paid at a rate of £23 per hour.
The problem appears to persist as trucking companies are still urging the government to ease immigration rules so drivers can more easily be recruited from across Europe but the British ministers are resisting claiming British workers should be trained up to take the jobs and fill up the quota.
While both parties remain at it, inflation threatens to rise as food and fuel costs might spike up during the festive period.