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Freight industry rejects PM’s blame for supply chain woes

[ October 6, 2021   //   ]

Logistics UK chief executive David Wells has rejected comments by Boris Johnson that appeared to pin the blame for current supply chain problems on the industry itself.

Reacting to the prime minister’s comments on Tuesday 5 October he said: “To suggest that the current issues being experienced in the supply chain are the fault of the very industry which has kept the country supplied with everything it needs throughout the pandemic is, quite frankly wrong.

“The government is well aware that that there are two recent shocks to the system which have created the current problems:  19,000 HGV drivers leaving the UK because of Covid and Brexit and the DVSA’s decision to stop the testing of 45,000 new HGV drivers during the pandemic.  Rather than trying to shift the blame for the current situation onto industry, we need government to redouble its efforts to provide assistance in those areas it can control.”

He added that the first positive step would be to extend the number and duration of temporary visas recently made available to EU drivers. The government must deliver on the promises it has made repeatedly over the past four years to deliver more safe and secure overnight parking spaces for HGVs.

Meanwhile, head of Consumer Research at broker ParcelHero, David Jinks pointed out that the Prime Minister had revealed that only 127 overseas drivers have been granted HGV visas so far, after the Government “grudgingly relented” its ban on non-EU drivers the previous week. Meanwhile, ParcelHero warns a fast-growing shortage of warehouse workers is escalating the collapse of supply chains.

He commented: “The Government’s original, curmudgeonly terms, which would have meant drivers had to return home after Christmas Eve, created almost no interest. What did the Government expect after we effectively threw out thousands of European drivers as ‘unskilled’ workers at the end of last year, following Brexit?

“This week’s increasingly desperate moves to sweeten the deal, by extending food drivers’ visas until the end of February and fuel tanker drivers’ visas until the end of March, have met an equal lack of enthusiasm. The Prime Minister reportedly admitted yesterday that only 127 drivers have been granted visas so far, including just 27 desperately needed tanker drivers. We’re not expecting a flood later this month as the scheme is rolled out further.”

He said that with truck drivers in demand across Europe, it was unlikely that thousands of drivers and supply chain workers forced to leave the UK after Brexit would decide to return.

According to David Jinks, the recruitment company Indeed is now receiving seeing potential interest from some overseas drivers, but these are largely from people based outside the EU. Drivers from India are clicking on UK driver job postings the most, followed by the UAE and South Africa. These potential applicants are unlikely to have the right to work as drivers within the EU, so may see the UK visa scheme as attractive.

Meanwhile, in the run-up to Christmas, “there has been a 41% decline in the number of EU-registered citizens applying for warehousing and supply chain jobs. That’s a huge shortfall. Retailers and delivery companies rely on a seasonal influx of temporary staff at this time of year. The Prime Minister may say the issue is the fault of industry relying on low skilled, low paid workers from abroad, but with all the EU “unskilled” citizens gone, where are vital temporary staff coming from this year?”