Logistics UK is calling on the UK government to grant 10,000 temporary work visas so that EU drivers can return to work in the UK’s supply chain. It says the move would help to keep retailers, schools and other businesses stocked with the goods they need.
The organisation’s analysis of the second quarter ONS Labour Force Survey found that 14,000 EU HGV drivers left UK driving jobs in the year to June 2020, and only 600 had returned by the end of June.
Alex Veitch, general manager of public policy at Logistics UK, says short-term visas are now necessary to protect the UK economy. “The EU workers who left the UK in the year ending June 2020, ahead of Brexit, were critical to the supply chain’s resilience,” he says, “and we are now starting to see the impact that their departure has had on supplies to businesses, retailers, homes and schools. The industry is working hard to recruit new drivers, with the implementation of new apprenticeships and other training schemes, and working with DVSA to speed up its testing regime, but these measures will take some time to produce new drivers. Our industry needs drivers now, and we are urging government to replicate its temporary visa scheme, introduced for agricultural workers, for logistics to keep trucks and vans moving in the short term.”
The Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme enabled up to 30,000 individuals to come to the UK on a so called T5 visa to work in agriculture for up to six months, and Logistics UK is pressing government to replicate the scheme for logistics workers. Currently, eight different short term work visa schemes are in place, for including for creative, sports and religious employees, as well as seasonal workers, but none can be used for HGV drivers.
“Logistics is facing a long term shortage of staff, which has been made much worse by the loss of our EU workforce,” says Veitch. “While we wait for new recruits to complete their training, which can take up to nine months, the logical solution would be to introduce a temporary visa scheme to keep the vehicles moving. After all, there is no point in picking and packing food if there is no one available to move it to buyers.”
This is one of several calls from the logistics industry for temporary visas for EU drivers to help alleviate the shortage of UK drivers. Previously it was reported that the government was close to agreeing a deal, however that has not as yet happened.
Courier Hermes UK recently launched an apprenticeship scheme to address the shortage of delivery drivers by training up LGV drivers. So far 45 employees have signed up to the 12 month scheme that enables them to get a Category C license and drive an LGV.
Staff taking part train at the Hermes Driving Academy in Nuneaton one day a week and can then interview for a driving job at the company once qualified.
John Walker, transport manager (Maidstone) at Hermes UK, says: “The latest survey from the RHA estimates there is now a shortage of more than 100,000 drivers in the UK. Our LGV apprenticeship programme is designed to help alleviate this industry wide challenge by allowing any one of our non-driving based employees to gain their Class 2 LGV licence. It won’t cost them a penny and they will be given paid time off during their current job for the practical and theory studying elements.”