The government and employers have been accused of ‘dragging their feet’ regarding the ongoing HGV driver situation which is causing issues across the supply chain.
Unite has urged the government and bosses to collaborate in an effort to tackle the shortage of drivers, which the Road Haulage Association (RHA) estimates is around 100,000 drivers.
Unite outlined the factors that have impacted the HGV driver shortage including an ageing workforce who are retiring; the effect of the ‘pingdemic’; the backlog in tests for new entrants due to Covid restrictions; and European Union (EU) drivers who returned home during the pandemic, but are now deterred from returning to the UK due to Brexit bureaucracy.
Unite national officer for road transport Adrian Jones said: “It is becoming clearer by the day that we are facing a serious HGV driver shortage across the UK – ‘a perfect storm’ in the worst possible way. Already gaps are appearing on supermarket shelves, and logistics and hauliers’ organisations are warning August will be a pinch point regarding the shortage of drivers as workers take summer breaks.
“The current shortage of an estimated 100,000 HGV drivers in the UK has highlighted a number of long-running serious discontents in the industry, from poor pay and conditions to inadequate toilet provision and lack of parking facilities.
Jones warned there was a “lack of respect” for HGV drivers.
“It is clear that the UK’s HGV drivers have been taken for granted for too long by bosses keen to squeeze the last drop of profit from their contracts – this brazen lack of respect for the workforce is now coming home to roost with mounting calls for industrial action.
“We need to sit down and come up with a blueprint for a way forward so that the transport arteries of the nation are kept open now and in the future – to assist in this process with have devised a six-point programme to start tackling the shortage of drivers. However, to implement this we need the active co-operation of ministers and the employers which is not there at present.
“Some of the problems the industry face are long-term, such as low pay and long hours; and some are more recent such as the impact of Brexit on the number of EU drivers available. At the end of the day the country will grind to a halt without drivers.”
Unite also came up with a six-point plan to alleviate the crisis:
· improve pay and conditions.
· tackle the lack of diversity in the industry.
· simplify driving hours’ rules.
· make better parking and facilities a priority.
· toughen up sanctions for employers denying drivers access to basic facilities.
· shift the cost of accreditation from drivers to employers.