22.9.2021 | Industry matters

The ‘Perfect Storm’ hitting the supply chain

Regulatory and transport solicitor, Tim Ridyard, shares his thoughts on the issues affecting every link in the chain. 

Sadly, there appears to be no imminent solution with significant long-term disruption highly likely

The HGV driver shortage, around 100,000, is a major issue, but also a major shortfall in non-driving sector staff is compounding the problem. The number of EU workers has plummeted, and exporters already face significant financial losses, new obstacles and legal paperwork created by the Brexit Trade and Cooperation Agreement – this is before additional legal, and customs import requirements. Veterinary health certificates are due to come into force on 1 October 2021 but are deferred to 1 Jan 2022.

The causes of the driver shortage are well known: unattractive working conditions and pay, high training costs, an age profile where 50% of drivers are over 50 and less than 2% are under 25, the freezing of driver testing during COVID – plus COVID itself – changes in tax rules (IR35), the major loss of EU drivers post BREXIT (unlikely to return) plus new immigration visa requirements. The list is endless. As a result, pay rates and haulage costs are rising, and businesses cannot move time-critical fresh goods. At the same time, those businesses have severely depleted workforces, and crops may even go unpicked.

So what can be done to ease the driver shortage that is just one aspect of this headache? HM Govt will introduce ‘one-stop’ full HGV (CE) testing this autumn, allowing drivers to obtain their full HGV licence after one test and not in two stages, as now. From 15 November, the intended car/trailer testing will be relaxed to free up more test capacity for HGV drivers. A rapid increase in the driver pool is needed urgently. These are potentially only marginal gains in isolation.

A long-term fundamental solution has to be found. In the short term, gaps need to be filled – this may be by meeting training costs, making the profession more attractive and adding HGV drivers onto the job shortage visa list. Challenging – but this has long been well known.

Tim Ridyard is a Regulatory and Road Transport Solicitor and assists many businesses in the transport and logistics sector.