Their chief call is for drivers to be paid a better wage so new recruits can be found more easily and existing ones retained. UK firms are now 100,000 drivers short – a figure that has doubled in three years. The Road Haulage Association (RHA) said it warned of the looming crisis in 2018 and has now issued the Government with the action plan, via the Daily Express.
Chief executive Richard Burnett said: “The driver shortage is nothing new. We’ve been warning ministers about it for years.”
The search for young recruits comes as the industry fights an image problem and poor roadside facilities for long-distance drivers.
Two thirds of truckers are 45 or over and are not being replaced. Drivers earn above average salaries of £30,000 or more but are forced to work gruelling shifts and sometime spend weeks away from home. Meanwhile London Underground drivers are paid around £55,000.
Ex-roads minister and HGV licence holder Sir Mike Penning MP said: “This country cannot survive without hauliers. We take them for granted.
“What we need to do is let everybody – and I mean everybody – know the problems they are experiencing.
“We need to ask ourselves why people don’t want to be in the industry. There are myriad reasons, including salaries and lifestyle.”
Industry bosses said potential recruits are put off by anti-social hours and unhealthy lifestyles.
The shortage of skilled drivers and their paltry pay tops a list of problems the industry wants resolved, including the imposition of clean air zones that ban HGVs from city centres, filthy roadside facilities that are frequently ranked among the worst in Europe, and the ongoing threat posed by gangs of illegal immigrants in ports like Calais and Dunkirk.
The RHA has repeatedly warned that issues around driver training and apprenticeships, access to non-UK labour, and parking and facilities for drivers would create consumer hell before Christmas. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “A higher salary is something we are happy to see. People should be able to work hard and get paid a proper wage.
“It will correct a systemic problem because it’s been constantly undercut.”
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “As the Transport Secretary has made clear, this is a global issue made worse by coronavirus, and it is precisely because of our pre-pandemic interventions that we are able to bring forward the most recent solutions.
“We are taking a range of steps to support the industry, including stream-lining the process for new HGV drivers.”
But Mr Burnett said: “More than 95 percent of everything we have in the UK comes on the back of a lorry at some stage. Without lorries we get nothing. It’s essential that as a nation we start to love the lorry.”