Let’s get trucking for Britain, you can earn £70,000! Transport Secretary GRANT SHAPPS launches call to attract inactive lorry drivers and announces Government funding to train 4,000 new recruits
- There are nearly one million people with HGV licences across the country
- We are launching a call to re-recruit inactive lorry drivers all over the UK
- They can support country during crucial time while earning a salary of £70k
Britain’s HGV drivers are the lifeblood of the nation. Some 90 per cent of domestic freight is carried by road, and that includes virtually all our food and agricultural produce.
In the depths of the Covid pandemic, hundreds of thousands of drivers kept going, delivering the protective gear and medicines that sustained the fight against this most mortal of threats.
Logistics is a core industry, vital to our economy. But let’s be honest: our haulage drivers are undervalued.
This is a tough job, involving long hours alone at the wheel, often in the middle of the night as the rest of us sleep.
Constant attention is required to control vehicles weighing up to 44 tons and travelling at 56mph. You must train hard to become a HGV driver – it is a real skill requiring extensive and expensive training.
Yet wages and conditions in the industry have for years failed to reflect the inherent importance of the job.
GRANT SHAPPS: There are nearly one million people with HGV licences across the country. So we are launching a call through the media to re-recruit inactive lorry drivers all over the UK
A structural reliance on the use of drivers from Europe has over the years depressed wage levels and driven away British candidates, resulting in an ageing – average age 50-plus – and almost exclusively male workforce. Truck stops are often grim places, lacking adequate facilities, not reflecting the esteem in which hauliers should be held. This has to change.
This long-term structural problem has been exacerbated by the pandemic. HGV driving tests had to be halted due to the risk from strangers mixing in lorry cabs, creating a bottleneck that is still working through the system. By contrast, Brexit was a relatively minor contributor to a problem in the UK that is replicated in Germany and even worse in Poland. Indeed, our newfound flexibility has enabled me to change the law to allow more HGV testing to take place.
Driver shortages are a pan-European problem so the situation here in the UK cannot be solved by relying for evermore on foreign labour.
Currently, much of the world is witnessing post-pandemic turbulence in supply chains caused by driver shortages.
In the UK in recent months, this manifested itself by, for example, the occasional pump missing a particular grade of fuel – say super unleaded for half a day. However, what we have seen over the past couple of days is panic-buying that we must ensure doesn’t turn a very limited problem into a far bigger one. So let’s not fall into the ‘toilet roll’ trap of the early pandemic and by our own behaviour create the problem we fear.
Cars can take only a certain amount of fuel, refineries are running properly and deliveries are being made. So if we stick to our normal petrol-buying habits, this will allow the supply chain to catch up and stability to be restored.
Over the summer, the Government already acted to remove bottlenecks in HGV-driver testing. As a result, we are already on our way to being able to test twice as many candidates to drive lorries as before the pandemic. Today we’re announcing a package to go even further to attract people into the industry and tackle the driver shortfall on a permanent basis.
Currently, much of the world is witnessing post-pandemic turbulence in supply chains caused by driver shortages. In the UK in recent months, this manifested itself by, for example, the occasional pump missing a particular grade of fuel
First, there are nearly one million people with HGV licences across the country. So we are launching a call through the media to re-recruit inactive lorry drivers all over the UK.
These are people who have left the industry but still hold a licence. In the next few days, letters will hit doormats throughout the land, reminding them that they can support the country during this crucial time while earning a salary never before available for expertly driving a lorry.
Next, up to 4,000 new recruits will be able to take advantage of Government funding to train as road-ready HGV drivers. The Department for Education is investing up to £10 million to create new Skills Bootcamps, offering a free, intensive course for 3,000 people, while another 1,000 will be trained through local courses funded by our Adult Education Budget. This is a fantastic opportunity to start a career in a fast-growing sector offering rising salaries.
The industry is rapidly improving pay and conditions, with some companies offering over £70,000 to drivers. As the sector continues to improve, now is the time for anyone who left the industry to return – and anyone looking for a fruitful career to join.
The industry is rapidly improving pay and conditions, with some companies offering over £70,000 to drivers and up to 4,000 new recruits will be able to take advantage of Government funding to train as road-ready HGV drivers
Market correction – better wages and conditions – combined with an expansion in HGV testing will provide the long-term cure. But we acknowledge that shorter-term measures are required to ease the situation in the approach to Christmas. To surge the country’s driver- testing capacity, we are also deploying Ministry of Defence examiners to work alongside the testing agency DVSA. This expert team will help provide thousands of additional tests over the next 12 weeks, meaning new highly qualified HGV drivers will soon be on our streets. It’s going to make a real difference, and I’m hugely grateful for their help.
Tests will be available for participants as close as possible to the time they complete training and streamlined arrangements will mean that drivers can pass their tests much faster. And to ease these short-term pressures on hauliers ahead of Christmas, we are also issuing 5,000 one-off, temporary visas allowing HGV drivers from abroad to come and work in the UK in the food and fuel industries.
Looking ahead, we will conduct a full review of entry regulations for new and returning HGV drivers, looking at removing any barriers to recruitment. And the Government is working closely with the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education and employers to boost apprenticeships on offer for large-goods vehicle drivers and increasing choice.
It is vital, too, that we broaden the appeal of HGV driving to a much more diverse section of society. Deservedly, salaries have started to rise, but employers must do more to improve pay and working conditions, offering flexible shifts and fixed hours, and mak-ing the job more attractive to women, people from ethnic minorities and younger people. The haulage industry must play its part and accept that the days of cheap foreign labour are not going to return. It must pay the going rate.
The whole country owes the haulage industry a debt of thanks for the way it rose to the challenge of Covid, saving thousands of lives in the process.
Today’s announcements will ensure that the industry can meet its next big challenge – recruiting the next generation of drivers.
Let’s get driving for Britain.
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