Freight News, Road, Logistics, Business

Government in ‘secret’ talks to readmit foreign drivers

[ July 15, 2021   //   ]

A parcel broker says the Government is having ‘secret’ talks that could result in non-UK HGV drivers, including EU nationals, being called back to the country on temporary visas.

ParcelHero’s head of consumer research, David Jinks says that the driver shortage is potentially that it could lead to empty shelves or even a return to the rationing of staple products, as during the first Covid lockdown.

He said: ‘”The Department for Transport is reportedly now in ‘behind doors’ discussions with leading logistics professionals on how they can tackle the crisis and has asked the industry for evidence to demonstrate the value of a temporary visa scheme. While the Home Office has repeatedly dismissed the suggestion, the decision may be taken out of its hands if the situation continues to escalate.”

Jinks said the government faced two deeply unattractive options – either call in the Army – as the Federation of Wholesale Distributors and some retailers and manufacturers have called for – or ask EU-based truckers who left the UK after Brexit to return with temporary visas, alongside other non-UK drivers.

“Without a temporary visa for drivers – similar to that recently granted to agricultural workers to pick vital crops – the supply chain will break down.” The Road Haulage Association is also pleading for a seasonal visa scheme for qualified HGV drivers to aid the coronavirus recovery, he added.

ParcelHero says that around a quarter of a million people from the EU havequit the UK since the start of the year and contributed to a shortfall of around 70,000 HGV drivers.

The mass exodus was exacerbated by the impact of Covid-19, which brought the training of new lorry drivers to a standstill.

The Government has extended driver working hours, but the Road Haulage Association has called the move a “sticking plaster” that will not “make any material difference” to the shortfall of drivers.