Chamber calls for resolution to driver shortage

Chris Fletcher

Greater Manchester Chamber has put its weight behind a six point plan to resolve the increasing crisis created by the shortage of truck drivers.

As a result of the pandemic, Brexit and government policy the logistics industry currently has a shortage of approximately 100,000 drivers that is now impacting on supplies and goods across a wide range of sectors including construction, manufacturing, hospitality as well as in supermarkets.

In addition, there are now extra problems being created by the numbers of staff having to isolate as a result of being ‘pinged’ by the COVID app.

The problem was recently discussed at the Chamber’s Summer Assembly with members giving their views and experiences of the impact the driver shortage was having.

Members heard about a six-point plan put forward by the Logistics Skills Network about how to resolve the crisis and put 100,000 new HGV drivers on the road.

The six points include targeted campaigns to bring back a proportion of the qualified drivers who no longer work in the sector as well as those who have been forced into early retirement by the DVLA because of their age.

There is also a focus in ramping up the level of testing to pre-pandemic levels and a focus on getting better conditions for drivers including pay and roadside facilities.

Finally, the Armed Forces have a part to play by allowing personnel in their final year of service to gain a HGV licence and letting service examiners assist with clearing the backlog of tests.

Chris Fletcher, policy director at the chamber, said: “For some time now the perfect storm of COVID, Brexit and poor policy decisions by government have been creating the backdrop to the problems we are now seeing and which businesses and consumers are now experiencing the effects of.

“In an economy such as ours where virtually everything we consume and make is reliant on the effective movement of freight and goods, the least disruption can quickly cascade into major supply problems. With such a huge gap between qualified drivers and what is needed, unless resolved quickly the serious problems we are now seeing could get a whole lot worse very quickly.

“The six point plan put forward by the Logistics Skills network is sensible and we fully support it.

“More importantly, as well as longer term ideas they offer some quick solutions which, if government chose to implement, could start addressing the problem immediately.”

He added: “On the back of the economy fully reopening again and restrictions being lifted it is vital this country’s supply chain works. At present there is a looming threat but these proposals do offer a way around this.”

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