Shoppers could face empty shelves at Christmas unless the government takes urgent action to deal with the massive shortage of drivers in the road haulage industry, Richard Burnett, the new CEO of the Road Haulage Association has warned.
“We are pressing hard for the Treasury to make funding available so that would-be lorry drivers can take vocational driving and related tests that they so desperately need to pass and legally drive a heavy goods vehicle,” said Burnett.
Over the next 24 months the RHA is anticipating that 45,000 HGV drivers will retire, with the industry body expecting further reductions in truck driver numbers as more people leave for medical reasons or to obtain jobs elsewhere.
“It is clear that unless the government recognises and addresses this critical issue, the economic growth will slow down dramatically,” said Burnett. “Ours is an industry that has ridden the financial storm – 2013 saw the first increase in HGV numbers on UK roads since 2007.”
Despite last year’s upturn in driver numbers, Burnett believes the industry is still short of 40,000 drivers. He adds that the UK economy is “massively” reliant on its logistics industry, and if the efficiency of this sector is to be maintained funding must be made immediately available.
While acknowledging that there is some funding available, Burnett suggests that it is currently inaccessible and proposes that funds should be paid directly to those operating in the haulage and logistics industry and be nationally available. In addition, he suggests that it be time-limited.
“Such a scheme would ensure that UK growth and wealth creation is not impeded by a serious shortage of lorry drivers. We consider this to be the most effective and appropriate solution in the short term to an issue that will challenge the industry far beyond the coming weeks running up to Christmas,” added Burnett.
“The RHA has very strong support for this position from members with transport companies of all sizes – small, medium and very large.”