The United Kingdom and several other European Union member states have been experiencing a severe shortage of HGV lorry drivers, resulting in significant disruption to the supply chain. The British Government this week confirmed emergency visas will be issued to attract European drivers to the UK to help out tackle the issue. Irish Road Haulage Association president Eugene Drennan suggested the European Union played a pivotal role in exacerbating the crisis with its expansion as businesses took their “eye off the ball” on quality of training in exchange for cheaper labour.
Speaking to GB News, Mr Drennan said: “The problem is multifaceted, like any problem.
“In the expanding of the EU, I suppose, and all the nations that got in and the sizes of the areas we had to travel to, and the bigger the market got, we depended on the emerging nations for cheaper labour.
“That’s what happened. We really focussed on getting the business done, the volume, how we went about our business.
“And we took our eyes off the ball on quality.”
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He continued: “Drivers in the UK, some of the parking areas, some of the motorway stops are less than what they should be in this day and age.
“And also, both Ireland and England, our focus has been on third-level education and bringing our people forward and we lost sight a little bit of appreciation and net-worth value to trades, to drivers, high-skilled labour.”
A survey of Road Haulage Association (RHA) members estimates there is now a shortage of more than 100,000 qualified drivers.
Lorry drivers have maintained their wages are not the only issue pushing prospective HGV drivers into other professions but the treatment they receive and facilities available also played a role.
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Treasury minister Simon Clarke said the Government wanted to encourage HGV drivers who had left the profession to come back.
“There’s a write-out campaign, encouraging people who may want to return to being HGV drivers to do just that,” he told the BBC’s Today programme.
Asked about a renewed need for European drivers, Mr Clarke replied: “We are clear that we left the European Union for a reason, to control immigration.
“We want to increase the number of HGV drivers being trained in Britain, we have a million vacancies in the labour market at the moment – there’s a huge amount of opportunity out there.”