Logistics UK and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) have written to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), to outline three steps the government can take to overcome the current HGV driver shortage and protect the supply chain.

According to the groups, which together represent more than 23,000 members nationwide, the crisis is anticipated to worsen in the coming months as demand for goods increases with the new school year starting, British businesses returning to workplaces post-COVID-19 restrictions and the build-up to Christmas.

Writing to BEIS Secretary of State, Kwasi Kwarteng, Logistics UK chief executive, David Wells, noted retail and logistics industries are taking measures to address driver shortages; including increasing pay rates, offering bonuses and implementing internal training schemes, but the government must take immediate action to support supply chains.

“The current shortfall of around 90,000 HGV drivers is placing unsustainable pressure on retailers and their supply chains,” said Wells. “While there was a shortage of HGV drivers prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit, these two events have exacerbated the situation; the pandemic halted driver training and testing for more than 12 months, while an estimated 25,000 EU drivers returned home during the pandemic and following the end of the transition period.

“Logistics UK and BRC are urging the government to adopt three policies immediately. First, to increase DVSA’s (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) testing capacity permanently so the agency is able to process the backlog of driver tests placed on hold during the pandemic; this has left thousands of aspiring HGV drivers unable to join the workforce.

“The government should also review its decision not to grant temporary work visas to HGV drivers from the EU, as such drivers could supplement the domestic HGV workforce in the short-term, while the testing backlog is cleared and new drivers are trained and become qualified.

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“Third, industry needs government to ensure its skills and training schemes support the recruitment of HGV drivers, by reforming the National Skills Fund to fund HGV driver training and injecting flexibility into the Apprenticeship Levy.”

Writing with BRC’s chief executive, Helen Dickenson, Wells added: “Logistics UK and BRC need BEIS to work with us to ensure the government provides a clear road map and tangible support for industry to ensure our stores can continue to provide what the country needs every day.”

Logistics UK represents more than 7m people directly employed in the making, selling and moving of goods.