Friday, December 3

UK truck driver shortage: hauliers criticize new measure to attract foreign workers as ‘worst option’

The British government is moving to loosen rules on the number of deliveries foreign truck drivers can make to the UK, in an attempt to unblock the stalemate in the country’s supply chain.

At the moment, EU carriers can only pick up or deliver goods twice a week in the UK. Under the new proposals They can do it unlimitedly for a period of up to two weeks.

The government, which says thousands more deliveries could be made each month, is consult the industry on the suggested changes that would take effect towards the end of the year.

The chronic lack of truck drivers, a result of Brexit, the pandemic and other factors, has led to fuel shortages, empty supermarket shelves and the jamming of goods at the UK’s busiest container port, Felixstowe.

In recent weeks, the government has moved to grant temporary visas for up to 5,000 truck drivers abroad, extending its duration until the end of February.

But on Friday, Transport Minister Grant Shapps admitted that only dozens of visas had been taken.

The latest move is the 25th to help ease the truck driver shortage, he said, emphasizing its temporary nature. “The long-term answer to the supply chain problems that we are currently experiencing must be to develop a high-wage and high-skill economy here in the UK,” he said.

But strongly criticizing the new proposals, the UK Road Transport Association (RHA) argued that they would have the opposite effect, undermining UK carriers.

“We will have thousands of trucks operating in the UK tax-free, fuel-tax-free, below-minimum-wage drivers. I understand this is a crisis, but this is the worst option,” said RHA’s policy director, Duncan Buchanan. said on Twitter.

The industry body has asked the government to change rules that require drivers to complete at least 35 hours of training every five years, which it claims has deterred UK drivers who have left the profession from returning. .

EU rules authorize truck drivers to carry out up to three operations within seven days under the so-called “cabotage” system. This allows carriers to operate in different member states, improve efficiency and reduce the number of trips where trucks are empty.

But the UK left the scheme under Brexit, limiting the ability and incentive for EU trucks to operate in the UK.

Edwin Atema, from the European drivers union FNV, said that the UK’s move to relax its cabotage rules would be to “legalize exploitation” and “throw oil on the fire of an industry that is now bankrupt.”

Far from increasing wages and conditions, he said Britain would now encourage the opposite.

“This same government puts UK suppliers in competition with ‘clown’ companies,” he said. told BBC Radio. “I say ‘clown’ companies because the companies that will operate in the UK if these rules are lifted will not be companies from Belgium, Holland, Belgium or France. They will be companies from countries like Lithuania and Romania,” where he said employers were pushing for lower standards.

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