New immigration rules and regulations will be introduced to help fix Britain’s HGV crisis, the Government has announced.
It comes after thousands of European HGV drivers left the UK at the end of the Brexit transition period – resulting in significant delays across the country.
If you move goods in the UK or overseas, here’s what you need to know.
Is there an HGV shortage?
According to the Road Haulage Association (RHA), there is an estimated shortage of 100,000 HGV drivers in the UK. This includes 15,000 European drivers that returned home after the UK left the EU earlier this year.
The shortage has also been attributed to Covid-19 disruption. Loadstar, for example, found that the UK Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) had cancelled “at least” 30,000 HGV tests last year due to coronavirus-related issues.
This is leading to widespread problems in the supply chain, including the widely reported fuel crisis and wastage; Tesco is reportedly binning 50 tonnes of fresh food every week because it cannot get produce delivered to stores in time.
What are the new immigration rules?
The Government says up to 5,000 HGV drivers will be allowed to come to the UK for three months in the run-up to Christmas to ease temporary supply chain pressures in food haulage industries.
The application process – expected to form part of the T5 Seasonal Worker scheme – will begin in October, with visas valid until 24 December 2021. The visa scheme is not limited to certain nationalities.
As part of this initiative, 5,500 visas will also be made available to overseas poultry workers “to avoid any potential further pressures on the food industry during this exceptional period”.
The measures come after the Government ruled out issuing visas to foreign workers earlier this year – signalling a U-turn in immigration policy.
What else is the Government doing?
- “Free, short, intensive” HGV courses will be launched to train up to 4,000 drivers to be road-ready and gain a category C or category C&E licence
- Defence Driving Examiners (DDEs) will be deployed to increase the country’s testing capacity
- One million letters will be sent to former HGV drivers to encourage them to return to the profession
- Road haulage sector is “taking steps” to improve the industry, including increased wages, flexible working and fixed hours.
Measures welcomed by industry
Welcoming the changes to immigration policy, the Food and Drink Federation’s Chief Executive, Ian Wright, said: “This is something UK food and drink manufacturers have asked for over the last few months to alleviate some of the pressure labour shortages have placed on the food supply chain.
“This is a start but we need the government to continue to collaborate with industry and seek additional long term solutions.”
Elizabeth de Jong, Logistics UK’s Director of Policy, added: “Logistics UK welcomes the government package of measures aimed at improving the ongoing driver crisis. The government’s decision to grant 5,000 temporary visas for HGV drivers to help in the short term is a huge step forward; we are so pleased the government has listened to our calls and has made this bold decision to support the UK economy.
“We are also delighted that DfT have agreed to jointly send nearly one million letters to all drivers who currently hold an HGV driving licence. With fantastic HGV driving opportunities available in the logistics industry, now is the perfect time to consider returning to the occupation.”
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