Bin collection carnage: HGV firms headhunt binmen to fill lorry driver shortage

Lorry driver shortages discussed by political activist

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Britain is facing a shortage around 100,000 lorry drivers, according to the Road Haulage Association. Huge issues in global supply chains caused by the coronavirus pandemic, port closures and Brexit rules changes, have left some shop shelves empty and forced hospitality venues remove items from menus.

The void in the labour market has forced haulage firms to offer huge incentives and signing up bonuses to attract new employees.

Tony Wilkinson from the North Somerset Environment Company – a waste collection firm in Weston-super-Mare – told the BBC he has lost five dustcart drivers in the past two weeks.

Councillor Mike Solomon, North Somerset Council’s cabinet member responsible for waste, said one of its drivers of 11 years was poached after being offered a 10 percent pay hike.

Mr Solomon said the council now does not have enough staff to collect garden waste bins for the next fortnight.

He told the BBC: “We really couldn’t ask for a more dedicated team out on the rounds and I am very grateful to all of them for everything they’ve been doing.

“But the staff shortages – caused predominantly by the widespread shortage of HGV drivers – have reached the level where we know we are not going to have enough people available to provide the garden waste service for the next two weeks.

“HGV driver recruitment is an issue affecting the whole country with the Road Haulage Association estimating a shortfall of 100,000 drivers nationally.

“We are working hard to find ways to remedy the crisis locally and will have a clearer picture on compensation for our customers and what we’ll do to mitigate further impacts within the next two weeks.

“However, this situation will not be resolved quickly without government intervention which is why we are also lobbying our MPs and ministers to fix things.

“I’m sorry that this temporary interruption to the service will inconvenience people.”

The Government has repeatedly played down the issues with the supply chains and has encouraged firms to recruit domestic staff to cope with shortages.

The Department for Transport has announced a series of measures to ease the recruitment process of HGV drivers.

The Department said up to 50,000 more HGV driving tests would be made available, with applicants now only having to take one test to drive both a rigid and articulated lorry.

Trainees previously needed to complete two separate examination spaced three weeks apart.

Britons with a car driver’s licence will also no longer have to take another test to tow a trailer or caravan, freeing up more examiner time to carry out lorry tests.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “From Inverness to St Ives, HGV drivers are helping to keep the country running, and have been throughout the pandemic.

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“The shortage of drivers is a global problem, but we’ve been taking action here in the UK to help industry leaders attract drivers and build a more resilient sector.

“We’ve already delivered 50 percent more tests than were available before the pandemic, but today’s additional measures will deliver up to 50,000 more a year, helping more and more people to kickstart their career as a well-paid HGV driver.”

Downing Street has also rejected claims to the shortages will be “permanent” and insisted the UK food supply chain is “highly resilient”.

A Number 10 spokesman added: “We know there are some issues that are facing the sector.

“We will continue to speak and liaise those involved in those industries to try to ensure we can help them as much as possible.”
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