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UK warned visa plan to fix truck driver shortage will not solve crunch By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO – Lorries can be seen parking at HGV stations at Cobham on the M25 motorway in Cobham (Britain), August 31, 2021. REUTERS/Peter Cziborra/File Photo

By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s decision to issue temporary visas for 5,000 foreign truck drivers is a short-term fix that will not solve an acute labour shortage that risks major disruption for retailers in the run-up to Christmas, business leaders have warned.

After oil companies reported that there was an insufficient number of truck drivers, long lines formed at petrol stations on Saturday. Some motorists had waited hours to get fuel, while others sat waiting for their turn. This caused operators to restrict supplies, and some to shut down gas stations. [L1N2QR05A]

After warnings by the retail sector that there could be serious problems during the festive season if the drivers shortage is not addressed, fuel supply issues were created.

Grant Shapps, transport minister of the UK said in a statement that he had learned how critical Christmas has been for everyone after an 18-month difficult period.

Britain’s Road Haulage Association says there are about 100,000 drivers in shortage. The result is due to Brexit and workers being forced out of the transport industry.

According to the plans of the government, 55,000 HGV drivers will be allowed to enter Britain with temporary visas. Another 5,500 visas will be granted to poultry workers to “avoid any further pressures on our food industry.”

This short-term visa, which was previously denied by the government despite appeals from logistic companies and retailers, will be canceled on Dec. 24,

Up to 4,000 individuals will be trained to be truck drivers. To entice these drivers back into the industry, letters with letterheads for nearly a million HGV license holders will be sent. The ministry of defence will also draft in some examiners to accelerate the testing.

It was stated that visas would not be a permanent solution. The long-term solution is to recruit more British drivers, with higher pay and better working conditions.

Shapps explained that although we have taken immediate steps, it is important for the sectors to play their role in ensuring the drivers are able to continue to work and to maintain the right salary rises.

Andrew Opie (director of food and sustainability for the British Retail Consortium), warned Friday that there was only a 10-day window to resolve the driver shortage problem.

“The limit of 5,000 visas will do little to alleviate the current shortfall,” he said. Supermarkets have already estimated that they require at least 15,000 HGV drivers to ensure their business can operate fully ahead of Christmas, and to avoid any disruption or issues.

Other people have expressed concern that European drivers may be reluctant to return to Britain.

Marco Digioia of the European Road Haulers Association stated to The i that he believes many European drivers won’t return to Britain, regardless of whether the UK government permits it.