Government failure to help hauliers poses ‘real threat to the UK’s economic recovery’

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) asks the Government to help the freight sector address its driver shortage through additional funding in the Comprehensive Spending Review 

Representing nearly 7,000 UK-registered hauliers operating between them over 100,000 heavy goods vehicles, the RHA has been lobbying tirelessly for government funding to be made available to address what has the potential to be the worst crisis ever to hit the industry: a shortage of between 45,000 and 55,000 qualified drivers.

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“We as an industry need both government acknowledgement and help,” RHA Chief Executive Richard Burnett said. “We therefore have two specific requests ahead of the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review.

The first is to establish a driver apprenticeship scheme to tackle the driver shortage. Government has recently withdrawn support for the Trailblazer scheme operated by BIS and the RHA is gravely concerned that the newly-announced Apprenticeship Levy is simply not going to help. It represents little more than another tax on payroll which hauliers, already stretched to their financial limits, simply cannot afford.

The second request is for a £150 million cash injection to train drivers, directed to hauliers who have jobs and can support young trainee drivers.  This would help reduce some of the costs to individuals and firms who currently have to fund the £3,000 per HGV license test, which only currently has a 52 per cent pass rate and therefore no immediate job guarantee.

To promote the industry to the wider public, in October the RHA held the first National Lorry Week.

“National Lorry Week was developed with the #LoveTheLorry strapline to do two things,” Richard Burnett continued. “It raised the profile of the industry in the eyes of the public and the media, and hammered home to government the very real challenges that we face with particular emphasis on the critical driver shortage.”

RHA members across the UK supported the campaign, opening their yards to the general public, schoolchildren and hopefully, many potential future employees. The week featured in the national Sunday press, on over 30 regional BBC and independent radio stations, and in national, regional and local newspapers the length and breadth of Britain. In addition, Radio 2 Breakfast Show presenter Chris Evans featured Lorry Week throughout his entire programme.

Richard Burnett added: “The enthusiasm of members and industry stakeholders was overwhelming and the variety and scale of events amazing.  Members parked HGVs in busy town centres, at schools and at sporting events. The RHA in Scotland, together with Falkirk FC, ran a Love the Lorry event on match day, giving thousands of supporters of all ages a great opportunity to get up close and personal with trucks and hear about our industry first-hand.”

The Association also hosted a parliamentary reception at the House of Commons. Attracting over 50 MPs from all parties, senior civil servants and members of the national press, it provided the perfect opportunity to talk to decision makers about the incredible job the industry does in delivering daily life and of course the problems that it faces. 

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.

“The UK transport and logistics industry is the life blood of the UK economy”, concluded Richard Burnett. “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 UK’s economic recovery”.

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