Relying on foreign drivers could affect the industry long term

Published: 25 January 2016

Relying on foreign drivers could affect the industry long term
The RHA has warned that relying on non UK HGV drivers too much could jepardize the long-term stability of the UK road haulage sector as well as take money out of the British economy.
 
Speaking at a Transport Committee workforce skills inquiry, Jack Semple, Director of Policy at the RHA, said there were an estimated 60,000 foreign HGV drivers working in the UK. He estimates that the UK economy loses £180m a year when these drivers send money back to their home countries, the figure is based on each driver sending an average of £3,000 a year out of the UK.
 
He said these non UK drivers are mostly from Eastern Europe, however Portugal was quickly becoming a popular place to recruit drivers from.
 
Semple told MP’s that there needs to be more encouragement and support to recruit and train UK workers. Even smaller businesses that are managing to train up their own HGV drivers have ‘’constraints to the extent they can do this’’.
 
He said ‘’we are getting no incentive at all to change the pattern that has become ingrained. The pattern is we look elsewhere, to other companies. ‘’we need to do more, and I think the government has a role to play in this, to encourage companies to train UK people to drive in this essential industry.’’
 
Semple said that while local pockets of training and funding were available, this was still piecemeal and more needed to be done to encourage the industry as a whole, ‘’which is not just about very large operators, in fact it’s mostly SMEs.’’ he added.
 
Hermes Europe chief operations officer Martijn de Lange said that if driver wages continued to increase, the industry could become uncompetitive. The driver shortage is a ticking time bomb likely to get worse if a collective effort is not taken to tackle the issue now, he added.
 
Colin Snape, HR manager at Nagel Langdons, also told MPs at the inquiry that the company had been able to take significant steps to buck the trend and keep its driver pool healthy, such as higher wages and improved benefits.
 
However, he warned the knock on effect of larger companies continuing to increase wages could leave SMEs struggling to compete and retain their drivers.
 
Richard Newbold, founder of Returnloads.net said ‘’some haulage operators will disappear completely if something isn’t done to tackle the problem now. Not everyone has the resources to increase wages and this may make their drivers look elsewhere.’’ 
 
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