Government must prioritise the granting of 10,000 temporary work visas to encourage EU drivers to return to support the UK’s supply chain, according to business group Logistics UK.
Exclusive analysis of the latest ONS Labour Force Survey Q2 for Logistics UK by independent research company Repgraph has shown that 14,000 EU HGV drivers left employment in the UK in the year to June 2020, and only 600 have returned in the past year (by Q2 2021). As Alex Veitch, General Manager of Public Policy at Logistics UK explains, their departure has left a gaping hole in the workforce which needs a short-term solution to protect the UK economy:
“The EU workers who left the UK in the year ending June 2020, ahead of Brexit, were critical to the supply chain’s resilience,” he explains, “and we are now starting to see the impact that their departure has had on supplies to businesses, retailers, homes and schools. The industry is working hard to recruit new drivers, with the implementation of new apprenticeships and other training schemes, and working with DVSA to speed up its testing regime, but these measures will take some time to produce new drivers. Our industry needs drivers now, and we are urging government to replicate its temporary visa scheme, introduced for agricultural workers, for logistics to keep trucks and vans moving in the short term.”
The Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme has permitted up to 30,000 individuals to come to the UK on a so called T5 visa to work in agriculture for up to six months, and Logistics UK is pressing government to replicate the scheme for logistics workers. Currently, eight different short term work visa schemes are in place, for including for creative, sports and religious employees, as well as seasonal workers. None of these can be used for HGV drivers, as Mr Veitch continues:
“Logistics is facing a long term shortage of staff, which has been made much worse by the loss of our EU workforce. While we wait for new recruits to complete their training, which can take up to nine months, the logical solution would be to introduce a temporary visa scheme to keep the vehicles moving. After all, there is no point in picking and packing food if there is no one available to move it to buyers.”