HGV driver shortage reaching crisis point
24th September, 2021
UK HGV Truck Driver Visa Scheme
BP announced on 23 September 2021 that they had to temporarily close some of their sites due to a shortage of lorry drivers.
This is just one of many examples hinting towards a crisis point in the Haulage sector, which will inevitably have a detrimental impact across the chain.
The government introduced the New Points System on 01 December 2020 with a clear objective to control immigration and allow overseas skilled workers to be sponsored by an employer to cover the shortage of labour supply in the UK. One of the key positive changes was the reduction in the required skill level from NQF level 6 to NQF level 3 and a reduction in minimum salary from £30,000 to £25,600.
Sadly, for the Haulage sector, Large Goods Vehicle Drivers were not included in the eligible occupation codes for a Skilled Worker visa even where the employer is offering more than the minimum annual salary of £25,600 for a skilled worker. A surprising decision considering occupations such as plasterers, painters and decorators are included as eligible occupations but not HGV drivers.
According to Logistics UK, shortage of supply of HGV drivers is not a new phenomenon and the UK was lacking 76,000 HGV drivers before Brexit and the pandemic. The shortage has since increased because of Covid and Brexit with European drivers leaving the UK to work in their home countries or other EU countries. Although difficult to identify the increase in driver shortage, the Home Office’s policy allowing EU nationals to leave the UK for a period of 2-5 years after acquiring status under the EU Settlement Scheme has undoubtedly contributed to the driver shortage. The Road Haulage Association (RHA) estimates that 20,000 EU HGV drivers left during the Brexit process.
The industry has pressed the government to act promptly particularly with retailers ramping up their busiest period, Christmas. Transport and Logistics groups have asked for the government to introduce a temporary worker visa for HGV drivers allowing EU nationals to work in the UK, however, the government needs to address the long-term issue and a practical solution would be to include Large Goods Vehicle Drivers as an eligible occupation for the Skilled Worker visa category.
The process of becoming an approved sponsor with the Home Office can take anything up to 8 weeks from submission of the application. To avoid further delays, haulage firms need to be pro-active in their approach and ensure that monitoring systems are in place for them to become an approved sponsor with the Home Office.
For more information on becoming an approved sponsor with the Home Office, feel free to contact Ikram Malik.
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