You can hardly move without hearing about the national shortage of qualified HGV drivers. The Road Haulage Association estimates that we have a shortfall of some 100,000 drivers at the moment (nearly 20% reduction on pre-2020 figures.) They put this down to:
Covid exodus: many EU drivers returned home during the pandemic and the vast majority have not returned.
Brexit: Uncertaincy about rights to live and work in the UK has discouraged ‘000s of EU drivers from working here.
Failure to plan ahead: The Government’s complete shutdown of driving test facilities last year resulted in an estimated loss of 30,000 qualified drivers.
Tax changes: the change to taxation last year (IR35) has impacted on low-profit margin businesses like haulage. Many couldn’t sustain the demand for pay increases.
In Elmbridge, the impact is most noticeably being felt in the suspended collections of garden waste. Understandably the Council’s priority has to be their statutory duty to collect food and general waste, but garden waste is a relatively recent optional introduction, so whilst there is a driver shortage at the contractors, Amey, the garden waste collections are on hold.
It’s far from an ideal situation, but this is a national problem and the Government seems determined to reject requests for temporary visas for drivers because it’s committed to a post-Brexit labour market adjustment .
These shortages were foreseen, even before Covid. The average age of an HGV driver is 55. A combined failure by the Government and the industry to plan for recruitment and training to cope with anticipated retirements and an expected post-Brexit shortage, has left the whole nation competing for a scarce workforce.
Amey has a binding contract with the Council and we will be making sure they are held to account every step of the way. Ultimately, all our end-users of the service will have their subscriptions extended, so they won’t lose out. But addressing this national driver shortage is going to take time, so whilst we are doing everything we can as an Administration to ameliorate the impacts locally, we have to recognise this could be with us for some time yet.