Consumers could see empty shelves this Christmas because of the chronic lack of truck drivers, industry chiefs have warned.
Tens of thousands of new drivers are needed, according to the Road Haulage Association (RHA), which represents more than 8,000 trucking companies. To highlight the crisis, the first ever ‘National Love a Lorry Week’, will take place from 26th-31st October across the country to raise awareness of the problem.
RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said, ‘We are short of between 45,000 and 50,000 drivers and the situation is getting worse. Thousands of older drivers are leaving the industry and younger people can’t afford the £3,000 it costs to get a truck licence. The government could help but won’t. They should support a truck driving apprenticeship but are refusing to do so; even though they are forcing the larger trucking firms to pay the new apprenticeship levy.
“As far as the RHA is concerned, that amounts to little more than just a tax on payroll. That’s why we are holding National Love a Lorry Week to highlight the issue and pile pressure on the government. What young person can find £3,000 without some help? This shortage is grave and presents a real threat to Christmas and to economic growth.”
The Road Haulage association represents haulage companies that between them operate approximately 100,000 heavy goods vehicles across the U.K. Over 85 per cent of everything bought in the UK is carried by a truck at some stage in the supply chain. The road freight industry and its associated warehousing operations employ over 2.2 million people and is a vital part of the UK economy.
“Our industry is the life blood of our economy. The government can and must do more to help with this driver shortage crisis. Its failure to do so is now posing a real threat to the UKs economic recovery,” added Burnett.
A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said that the Trailblazer programme was working to address the situation, by way of groups of employers working together to develop an apprenticeship standard.
He said the programme had already seen more than 1,200 employers from various industries helping to design apprenticeship training standards to meet the demands of their workplace, and added that the government was committed to delivering three million apprenticeship starts by 2020.
The spokesman said: “We are still working closely with the Logistics Trailblazer group and have provided feedback to help them develop their LGV (Large Goods Vehicle) Driver apprenticeship standard.”