From current issue of the Big Issue in the North magazine.
Chancellor George Osborne will meet the Road Haulage Association following criticism that the government has failed to tackle a growing shortage of heavy goods vehicle drivers.
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) claims the industry has a 45,000 driver shortfall that will increase to 60,000 within 12 months. According to RHA chief executive Richard Burnett: “The UK has under-invested in HGV driving skills and become too reliant on drivers from Eastern Europe... and if the UK doesn’t have enough people able to drive the trucks the economy will not be going anywhere.”
Drivers are aware more are needed. Grantham’s Chris Crooks is an experienced HGV driver working on farm collections.
“All the agencies supplying drivers tell me they can’t fill the positions,” he said. “Overseas drivers have returned home frustrated at being unable to save much as wage rates aren’t great, whilst local people are restarting factory work.
“No youngsters are entering the industry as lessons are expensive. Starting out, my employer paid for these. Not all businesses can afford to do this but clearly something needs doing to boost training.”
Adrian Jones, national road transport officer at the union Unite, said: “More money is needed for training but there also needs to be a career path that includes decent pay rates, more holidays and a pension.”
The RHA calculates it costs companies around £3,000 per driver for training and is asking for government funding to train people living in the UK.
However, according to a Department of Transport spokesperson: “The government already supports the logistics industry, including providing £17 million to boost skills and introduce logistics apprenticeships. We are exploring ways to tackle the shortage of HGV drivers.”
Osborne has agreed to meet the RHA later this month. An RHA spokesperson said: “We are pleased our relentless lobbying has finally resulted in an invitation to meet at HM Treasury.”