The head of a logistics firm has joined in calls for a “relaxation” of immigration rules for HGV drivers.
The chief executive of Wincanton , James Wroath, has suggested a temporary change of rules about hiring European drivers to help the industry deal with the current shortage.
It comes following an apparent exodus of drivers from EU countries, who returned to the continent during the coronavirus pandemic and remained there.
This has led to food shortages in supermarkets, in a survey of 3564 adults, 56 per cent said they had experienced shortages.
These shortages have mostly been noticed by those in Scotland (67 per cent), as well as the majority of those in the rest of the South (57 per cent), Midlands/Wales (55 per cent) and the North (56 per cent).
“There is no quick fix to address these shortfalls and we and our peers and our customers are fully focused on everything we need to do,” Wroath, wrote in The Telegraph.
He said: “We know we need to pay people more and look at initiatives such as signing on bonuses and training incentives. But these represent a small step in tackling the structural challenges we face to ensure our country’s supply chain is properly resourced and capable of meeting the needs of a resurgent economy and, in particular, the continued shift to online retail.
“Delivering the changes needed will require work from all businesses in our sector, from our customers and from Government. For instance, when it comes to drivers, we need to make HGV driving a more inclusive, flexible and rewarding profession.
“For too long we have failed to replenish the ranks of our drivers with younger recruits, deterred by unsociable hours and a lack of appreciation for the skill and responsibility required in the role.
“We need more diversity, including greater female representation. We also need creativity and flexibility around shift patterns, and more investment in facilities and amenities.”
He also suggested diverting apprenticeship levy funding and fast-track training for young drivers
so it takes less time to qualify.
Wroath warned these changes must be implemented to avoid putting an “intolerable strain” on supply chains ahead of Christmas.
He added: “We would like the Government to consider a temporary relaxation of the rules around foreign drivers to enable us to get over this squeezed period.”
Bosses at the Road Haulage Association have warned that there is a shortfall of around 100,000 drivers.
The DVSA announced in August it is looking to recruit an extra 40 additional vocational driving examiners to help reduce the shortage.
It has also increased the number of vocational driving tests from 2000 a week pre-pandemic to 3000 by overtime and has allocated additional employees into testing.
with PA Wires