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Britain sees ‘green shoots’ recover from truck crisis

FILE PHOTO: Trucks are seen at Lymm Services
FILE PHOTO: Trucks are seen at Lymm Services, Lymm, England, September 29, 2021. The image was taken using a drone. REUTERS / Jason Cairnduff

December 6, 2021

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain still has a severe shortage of heavy-duty vehicle (HGV) drivers but the rate of people leaving the sector is at least slowing, an industry group said on Monday.

Logistics UK, which represents the transport and logistics businesses, estimates the country is short of about 120,000 drivers, a shortage that has disrupted supply chains and left gaps on supermarket shelves.

That reflects the tens of thousands of people who have returned to the European Union after Brexit and the cancellation of 40,000 truck driver tests during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Logistics UK says the number of HGV drivers fell by 44,000 in the third quarter of 2021 compared with the same period in 2019, leaving the workforce 14% smaller than at the start of the pandemic.

However, that represents an improvement as it fell 72,000, or 23.4%, in the second quarter.

“It’s still acute but we’re starting to see green shoots that we couldn’t see before,” Policy Director Elizabeth de Jong said.

Early signs of improvement include provisional license applications three times higher than pre-pandemic levels and a 25.6% increase in the HGV driving test in the third quarter compared with 2019.

A pay increase of up to 29% has helped, as have the promises of investments in improved facilities for drivers.

The government is also investing in a “Skills Training Program” to train up to 5,000 people, while apprenticeship programs have been introduced to attract young drivers.

In October, the government announced 4,700 temporary visas for drivers abroad to deliver food and 300 for fuel supplies for a period of three months, following the fuel crisis.

De Jong said the government has not told Logistics UK how many of these visas have been issued. The industry group said in a report that more work needs to be done.

“Without further progress on training, visa regulations and HGV facilities… shortages will exacerbate existing disruptions to supply chains, further driving inflation grow above the Bank of England’s 2% target and hinder the UK’s growth as a modern digital economy,” it said.

It said consumers may notice reduced range at online retailers and longer delivery times by Christmas this year.

(Reporting by James Davey; editing by Kate Holton Editing by Alex Richardson)

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Bobby Allyn

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