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The government’s decision last week to extend the hours lorry drivers are allowed to drive for – in a bid to solve the ongoing driver shortage that is wreaking havoc in UK supply chains – is creating “pandemonium”, according to logistics industry experts.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps announced that from today (12 July) to 8 August, drivers can work an extra hour a day and further extend their hours twice a week, as reported in an IOE&IT Daily Update last week.

However, rather than addressing the driver shortages in the haulier industry, the changes have allowed supermarkets and other retail firms to attract drivers away from firms moving containerised freight – where there shortages are occurring – with the offer of better salaries and working standards.

Profound impact

“We now have this situation where drivers are simply being rejigged from firm to firm as rates climb, and the actual issue of driver shortages is not being addressed,” one forwarder told the Loadstar.

Another forwarder said the long-term impact could be profound.

“It is drawing drivers away from the containerised and air freight side of the industry towards the retail side, leaving a big part of UK business without service,” they said.

Driver shortages are inevitably increasing prices, with every touchpoint in the supply chains affected, they added.

Government help needed

Logistics organisations are calling for further government measures to alleviate the growing crisis.

Lloyds Loading List reports the Association of Pallet Networks asking Grant Shapps to allow EU HGV drivers to qualify for a UK work visa under the UK Shortage Occupations List. 

Pall-Ex, a network of 160 independent haulage firms, said research among its members found 74% were affected by driver shortages every day.

It called for a range of measures to provide a longer-term solution, including:

  • incentives for young people to train as HGV drivers
  • insurance companies being forced to cover new drivers
  • a relaxation of regulations to allow ex-drivers to re-enter the workforce

Secret talks

According to the Telegraph, ministers are holding secret talks about possibly creating a short-term visa scheme to allow European drivers to work in Britain.

It claims the Department for Transport (DfT) is consulting with the industry on how to tackle the estimated shortfall of 100,000 truckers.

However, the DfT is facing opposition from the Home Office, which is against relaxing post-Brexit rules on movement of workers.