The shortage of lorry drivers has become so severe that the Department of Transport has temporarily relaxed drivers’ hours rules from Monday 12 July, allowing drivers to make slightly longer journeys. However, very little consideration seems to have been given to the health and safety impact on affected drivers and it is also unclear whether they will have any option regarding the length of their shifts.
There are an estimated 100,000 vacancies in the haulage sector, and the staff shortage is now affecting food deliveries and waste collection services. Supermarket retailers warned that there could be gaps on their shelves unless immediate action is taken to deal with the shortage of drivers.
The Road Haulage Association is calling for visa restrictions on lorry drivers to be relaxed as the lack of EU labour caused by Brexit is exacerbating the situation. Industry chiefs have been in talks with the Government on a short-term visa scheme for foreign lorry drivers but the Home Office is strongly opposed to relaxing controls.
Of course, this year’s off-payroll legislation has also contributed to the current crisis because many self-employed drivers have now decided to leave the sector entirely rather than have their income severely reduced through being taxed as an employee. As a result logistics firms now face pressure on the rates they can pay drivers, yet the supply chain is very low-margin so they are in an impossible situation.
The situation is so severe that measures to plug the gaps could include co-opting qualified military personnel.