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The government needs to “listen to drivers” and help address working conditions for truckers as it looks to tackle the HGV driver shortage, the TUC has said.

According to the union, there are 75-85,000 HGV licence holders in the UK who do not drive, suggesting shortages are a result of “wages and conditions being driven down for years”.

Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary, told inews that the answer was “clear as day”.

Healthier and more resilient

“Better conditions and pay would help attract and retain staff, and make for a healthier, more resilient labour market,” she said and told the government to listen to the drivers “who know what life on the road is like”.

O’Grady said that there were also health problems associated with the industry including obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

A shortage of drivers has been blamed for widespread supply chain disruption affecting companies including McDonald’s, Adnams, the Coop and Ikea.

Wage inflation feeding through

Morrisons is the latest company to highlight the issue, reports the Independent. The supermarket has predicted that food prices will rise due to the impact of the lorry driver shortage.

“We expect some industry-wide retail price inflation during the second half [of the year], driven by sustained recent commodity price increases and freight inflation, and the current shortage of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers,” it said.

James Bielby, the chief executive of the Federation of Wholesale Distributors, said there are 500,000 vacancies across the supply chain at the moment, creating wage inflation, which will lead to food price inflation.

“The labour shortage means you are having to pay drivers specifically more, and that will be passed on,” he added.

Women drivers

Conditions for the small number of female lorry drivers are even worse, reports inews.

Becky Gibson said the lack of basic facilities on the road, saying the “horrendous” toilets were so poor that she “wouldn’t even let my dog use” them.

Female drivers also face harassment, negative reactions, and sexism, said Gibson who added that all drivers “could use more appreciation as we worked all through the pandemic and barely got any recognition”.

Another female driver, Shanalee Johnson, who drives for logistics firm Wincanton, told the BBC that the “stigma” that HGV driving is a “man’s job” is putting some people off.

Training costs

The industry is also failing to attract young people because they are put off by the costs involved in becoming a qualified driver.

Johnson, who funded her own training, estimates it costs between £3-5,000 for training and tests.

Food and catering supplier JJ Foodservice is looking to broaden its talent pool with a recruitment campaign to encourage more women to become HGV drivers.

It is offering “permanent contracts with no evenings or weekends, salaries of up to £35K in London, and no gender pay gap”.

The company is also using women in its recruitment adverts and highlights its “support with wellbeing”.