Lincolnshire haulage firms are calling on the government to take action amid the lorry driver shortage which is continuing to impact on companies across the UK.
According to a Road Haulage Association survey, there is now a shortage of more than 100,000 drivers in the UK, out of a pre-pandemic total of around 600,000. That number includes tens of thousands of drivers from EU member states who are living and working in the UK.
A combination of coronavirus, Brexit and other factors means there are not enough drivers to meet demand. The Lincolnite spoke with three Lincolnshire firms who are coping well with the difficult and ongoing situation, but have also faced some struggles.
Alistair Clugston, Chief Executive Officer at Scunthorpe-based Clugston Distribution Services Ltd, said that his firm are still employing new drivers through their licenses and covering the cost of that.
However, the medicals and processing of paperwork is taking a lot longer than normal. He said the DVLA is taking such a long time to process everything and book tests and this is where “the government is failing this country”.
He believes Clugston has still managed to thrive during these uncertain times, saying: “We’re coping with it better than a lot of other companies. I’ve employed 10-15 drivers in the last six weeks and have four more to interview on Friday.
“Strangely, I’ve been inundated with people, it might be partly due to the fact we are a private company and the average driver is with us for over 20 years.
“We also gave our drivers an increase in January that was effective from May. Without being asked by drivers we gave them an additional increase in the summer.
“We haven’t felt the full effect (of the shortage), but a lot have and it could hurt a lot of companies. There is a shortage, that is very apparent.”
Family run business Law’s Transport Ltd was founded in 1989 and is based in Metheringham, Sleaford and Lincoln.
Managing Director Mike Law believes the government is not doing enough, including not having enough safe overnight parking places for lorry drivers.
He said one of his drivers was gassed several weeks ago. He had his window open at night because it was very hot, and someone filled the cab full of gas, stole the diesel and fled.
The driver woke up coughing and spluttering. Mike believes this incident was as a result of a lack of safe parking sites, and his driver being forced to park in a lay-by.
Training for lorry drivers being too expensive is another issue, which he believes the government should do for free to help alleviate the problem. He believes that doubling driver’s overnight tax free expenses would also help the situation.
He said: “There has always been a shortage for years. It got worse when they (the government) didn’t allow the foreign drivers to stay for longer periods.
“Because of Brexit, a lot of them have had to go home and since then we’ve seen a decline in the number of drivers applying for work.
“As a company we’ve been very proactive with our customers, increasing driver’s rates of pay sooner than some of our competitors, and we’ve been able to retain a number of drivers.
“We are in huge demand, more so than we’ve ever been. We have a fleet of 45 vehicles, which we could double and have enough work, but we think that would be difficult to do and then find the drivers due to the shortage.
“In order to double the fleet we have to jump through a lot of red tape to satisfy the authorities, we are a very legislated industry.”
He added that the government is saying to use domestic drivers, which he branded as “ridiculous”. He also criticised the suggestion of drivers working longer hours saying it won’t solve the problem as “drivers already work long hours”.
Peter Denby, Director at Lincoln firm Denby Transport, believes the issue is due to a combination of various factors, including Brexit, delays in getting and renewing driver licenses, and delays with LGV tests.
He said: “I think the driver shortage is a national problem. I don’t think Lincolnshire is particularly adversely affected one way or another.
“It has been a significant impact for us. We only accept work for the vehicles and drivers we’ve got and it’s meant a reduction in our capacity.
“I don’t think it’s going to be cured overnight. This is going to last for a long time.”