Government introduces plans to ease pressure on the road haulage sector, but do they go far enough?
An open letter, announced on 20 July 2021, has been jointly sent to the ‘UK Logistics Sector’ from three Government Departments: Department for Transport, Department for Work & Pensions, and Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.
It begins by thanking ‘our road haulage key workers, who throughout this past 16 months have provided a vital service to the Covid-19 response’ and then explains a set of actions they are taking to tackle some of the issues the industry is facing.
They acknowledge the shortage and the impact this is having on the broader economy. They place the onus on us, as an industry, to ‘lead’ the way out of this crisis, but they are offering some measures of support which include:
- Increasing the availability of HGV driving testing
- Reform of the vocational HGV driving test to increase testing capacity
- Reviewing proposals to provide financial support to the industry to assist with the training of new drivers
- Encourage job seekersto consider the industry
- Large Goods Vehicle Drive apprenticeship standard will be available from 2 August
- They accept that they need to develop people resident in the UK instead of relying so heavily on the large numbers of EU nationals that continue to be an ‘important part of the lorry driving workforce.’
- They have announced a short-term relaxation to drivers’ hours’ regulations given the ‘current urgent situation,’ along with a relaxation of supermarket delivery hour restrictions.
- They recognise that the above initiatives to get more drivers into the industry are only half the battle and that retaining the workforce is also crucial. They look to support industry-led action here, although they recognise their role in providing the quantity and quality of parking and overnight facilities for lorries and drivers.
- They will support an industry-led proposal for a Year of Logistics
Elizabeth de Jon, Policy Director at Logistics UK, doesn’t believe that the plans announced by the Government go far enough.
“The plans revealed by the government today only go part of the way to addressing the crucial problem areas that the industry has been talking with the government about for years. . . After all the incredibly hard work to keep the country stocked . . it is dispiriting to see that the safety and security of our workforce in the course of doing their jobs is still not being prioritised”
It is the lack of available overnight parking spaces without safe and secure locations that she believes to be a ‘huge impediment’ to attracting more people to join the industry. She is looking for a much firmer commitment from Government on this.
Ms de Jong acknowledges the Government’s support but urges them to go further and is pushing for more concrete objectives to which they can be held to account.
Here at Masters Logistical, we are very fortunate that we have a solid core of loyal drivers who have been with us for many years, to whom we are incredibly thankful. However, we are not immune to what is happening in the industry. We support the calls for raising awareness of the importance of our sector and improving the standards in which our drivers, who are essential key workers, have to operate when they are travellingthroughout the UK to keep the country running.
“Logistics is the essential sector in the UK, it brings all the other sectors together and gets our everyday essential and luxury items to our shops and homes. It is time to recognise and support the vital and valuable contribution its workers make to the UK economy and our everyday lives”.
Mervyn Jeffery – Business & Commercial Development Manager here at Masters.