Up to 4,000 people will be trained as new heavy truck drivers “to help tackle skills shortages and help more people start careers in the logistics industry”, and nearly a million letters will be sent to all licensed heavy-duty drivers, “encouraging them in the industry,” the government said.
Worker shortages are a growing problem in Britain, which recorded a million job vacancies between June and August, according to the Office for National Statistics.
The UK’s Road Haulage Association (RHA) says Britain needs 100,000 more drivers to meet demand. The driver shortage was caused in part by Brexit and Covid-19, and the loss of around a year of driver training and testing.
“This government continues to do all it can to help the transportation and food industries deal with the shortage of truck drivers,” Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps said in the statement.
Shapps called on the industry to play its part “in maintaining working conditions and deserved wage increases so that companies retain new drivers.”
“After 18 very difficult months, I know how important this Christmas is to all of us and that is why we are taking these steps as soon as possible to ensure that preparations stay on track,” he added.
Food and Drink Federation chief executive Ian Wright said his organization welcomed the government’s “pragmatic decision” to temporarily add heavy truck drivers and poultry workers to the visa program.
“This is something that UK food and drink manufacturers have been asking for over the past few months (…)
“It’s a start, but we need the government to continue to work with industry and look for additional long-term solutions.”
But others, including Andrew Opie, director of the British Retail Consortium, said the 5,000 truck visa limit would do “little to make up for the current shortfall,” according to local media.