The prospect of a temporary visa plan to fix the truck driver shortage has been greeted with frustration and relief by industry figures and opposition politicians.
With an expected announcement over the weekend, Downing Street sources said the plan, which will reportedly temporarily lift visa restrictions for foreign drivers, will be a “short-term solution” to ease pressure on deliveries in the US. run up to Christmas.
It was reported that up to 5,000 temporary visas could be granted for heavy vehicle drivers, while the FT said a similar number would be approved for food processing workers, especially in the poultry industry.
It comes amid scenes of long lines at gas stations after a shortage of heavy-duty vehicle drivers forced some fuel retailers to shut down their pumps and sell rations.
Gasoline problems follow growing concerns about the impact that the lack of heavy vehicle drivers is having on supermarket supplies, with fears that holiday shopping will be hampered without action.
Experts suggest that the industry is short of about 90,000 drivers.
Trade associations such as the National Farmers Union, the Road Transport Association, the Food and Drink Federation and the British Association of Meat Processors have previously proposed a special one-year visa that would allow workers to enter the UK to cover truck driver vacancies, as well as butchers, chefs and other food industry roles.
Some 25,000 EU heavy vehicle drivers left during 2020 and did not return, while there is also a delay of 40,000 people waiting for their heavy vehicle tests.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said there was “great relief” at the prospect of the policy on the entry of foreign workers into the UK being relaxed to mitigate the problem.
Managing Director Tony Danker told BBC Breakfast: “Hopefully it happens and it’s a huge relief. We have been asking for it for three months. We could see this problem and more problems coming, so it is a shame that the government needed queues at the pumps to move, but I hope they have done it and it will help ”.
Labor leader Keir Starmer told supporters after arriving at the Labor Party conference in Brighton that the Conservative administration was “very disappointing people” over food and fuel shortages. He said: “I was just on the road (and saw) three gas stations, one of them with a huge queue and two without fuel.”
A head of freight transport was skeptical whether the shortage that is being experienced in the sector would be solved by relaxing immigration rules.
When asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today show if such a scheme could help alleviate vacancies, Toby Ovens, Managing Director of Broughton Transport Solutions, said: “No, I think a lot of what we are seeing right now is due to essentially to the driver’s wages. The margins in transport are very tight and the reality is that there is no money to pay for the increase in wages without substantial price increases for customers ”.
Ovens said he did not believe that Brexit had been a factor in the problems of the transport sector, with the improvement in living standards in Eastern European countries, where truck drivers used to come from in recent years, which means that people choose to stay with their families. coming to the UK for work.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism