Government Urged To Add HGV Drivers To Shortage Occupation List
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) has urged the UK Government to include HGV drivers on the Official UK Shortage Occupation List, according to a report on their website. The driver shortage in the industry currently exceeds 60,000, says RHA Chief Executive Richard Burnett.
Mr Burnett has called on the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to do more to help the industry, which is suffering from the effects of Brexit, unequal access to the Apprenticeship Levy funds, and the shutdown of the vocational driving tests last year. The pandemic restrictions caused 30,000 test slots to be lost.
On top of all this, changes to the IR35 tax rules mean that some firms have lost access to agency drivers, resulting in the cancellation of deliveries. Burnett warned that the mounting driver shortage would hit the supply chain, at exactly the time when the government was encouraging the economy to bounce back, and the hospitality sector was reopening.
Burnett said: “If we do not do something soon the industry will be unable to maintain the integrated supply chains and cope with artificial spikes caused by hot weather and the easing of lockdown, increasing demand for food and drink into supermarkets, pubs and restaurants and goods into retail outlets.”
Despite Burnett’s call to increase the number of drivers, he is against allowing them to work longer hours, as many already work around the clock and are facing burnout. He commented: “We really need to consider the impact of HGV driver mental health and of course road safety.”
In the long term, Burnett sees a solution to the crisis through increased recruitment and training of a homegrown workforce. To temporarily ease the shortage, he also advocates the relaxing of the rules, so it is easier for HGV drivers from abroad to live and work in the UK, which would be helped by adding them to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL).
The SOL is comprised of those jobs which the government deems to be in short supply in the current labour market. The Home Office therefore considers that migrant workers can be permitted to fill key roles where there aren’t enough adequately skilled UK workers in the candidate pool.
The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) advises the government on which occupations are suitable for the SOL, and immigration rules are drawn up accordingly. The latest review took place on the 4 March 2021, and some changes came into effect on 6 April. They are mostly related to work and study routes, but some new jobs have been added as well.
However, none of these roles were related to drivers. As part of the post-Brexit immigration system, a points-based skilled worker route was introduced with effect from 1 January 2021. Most non-UK resident workers must now apply for a visa if they wish to seek employment within the UK. This is known as a Skilled Worker visa.
To be eligible, the candidate must meet strict requirements and attain 70 points, which are acquired through a combination of skills, language ability, and salary. If the role is on the SOL, 20 points can be scored, which would be tradable for a minimum salary reduction.
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