Could a post-Brexit driver shortage spell disaster for UK haulage?

Whilst most of the country is gearing up for lockdown restrictions to be lifted, one industry is struggling to tread water after enduring hit after hit: the UK Transport sector. A combination of Brexit preventing EU recruitment, tax reforms creating lower incomes for EU drivers and COVID-19 causing a backlog in HGV driving tests has caused the already struggling sector to call for urgent help.

Alex Veitch from Logistics UK emphasised his nervousness on the situation, commenting: “Britain has had a chronic driver shortage for many years, but the problem is now acute. In 10 years of campaigning on this issue we have never seen members as concerned as they are now”.

How has Brexit affected the Transport sector?

As is the case with most sectors, the new Brexit Britain has caused a considerable shakeup in the Transport sector and is one of the main causes for the current driver shortage. This is the result of post-Brexit immigration policies prioritising high-skilled immigration, which have made it legally impossible to employ EU citizens as HGV drivers. This, due to workers not being eligible for a skilled worker visa.

How did self-employment tax reforms affect EU drivers?

For drivers to reduce the amount of tax they were required to pay, many were operating as self-employed under small limited companies. To prevent this, HM Revenue & Customs enforced IR35 reforms requiring larger contractors to pay full tax and national insurance for their drivers.

Though these reforms were widely accepted, the drop in income EU drivers would experience has caused an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 to return home (Kieran Smith, Driver Require).

What does an HGV driving test backlog mean?

Whilst driving test cancellations were a constant topic of discussion throughout the pandemic, HGV driving tests were also subject to the same treatment. In fact, approximately 28,000 HGV tests were cancelled as a result of lockdown restrictions.

Whilst April saw the resumption of HGV driver tests, to overcome the shortfall in tests for 2021, there is a real need for additional examiners. Research conducted by Logistics Skills Network (LSN) identified that there was an immediate requirement of 30 HGV examiners required to combat this. Though, including the backlog of tests from 2020, the real number of examiners required would be nearer to 100.

What does the road ahead look like?

Whilst many road haulage companies and associations are lobbying for HGV drivers to be added to the ‘shortage occupations’ list for the Skilled Worker visa, the UK government is still yet to budge. Despite this, there is an ongoing government-backed campaign to boost domestic recruitment, which involves recruiting 300 examiners to make 4,000 HGV tests available each week.

Whilst efforts to combat the HGV driving test backlog have begun, whether or not this is enough to counterbalance the loss of EU drivers is yet to be seen. Regardless, we are set to see a spike in new Heavy Goods Vehicle operators on the roads. As such safety is of paramount importance.

At Checkpoint, we provide drivers with a range of innovative wheel safety solutions, each with a common theme of visual safety and preventative maintenance. Designed to be used as part of a robust maintenance procedure, the Checkpoint range of products promotes wheel safety by minimising the risk of wheel loss.

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