Inside plan to save Christmas – Government’s lorry driver visa scheme explained

Lorry driver shortage will benefit UK in long term says Ros Atkins

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Britain is struggling due to an ongoing HGV driver shortage which experts estimate is short by around 100,000 drivers. The UK Government announced plans to introduce measures which would mean 5,000 additional fuel tanker and food lorry drives would be eligible to work in Britain for the three months to Christmas Eve. The retail industry has warned significant disruption to Christmas is inevitable if more delivery drivers are not sourced in the next 10 days.

More than 10,000 foreign workers will be given temporary work visas to avoid supply shortages over Christmas.

The UK will grant 10,500 visas to lorry drivers and those into the food sector.

The temporary visa scheme will create opportunities for 5,000 HGV drivers and 5,500 poultry workers who take up employment in Britain until Christmas Eve.

The plan is to therefore involve having more recruits trained to drive lorries in the coming 12 weeks in time for Christmas.

The move is being undertaken in a bid to ensure supermarket shelves are fully stocked in time for Christmas.

The increase in delivery drivers will ensure turkeys and toys are stocked, as well as counteract difficulties at petrol stations.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned companies to increase wages for lorry drivers.

The comments were made as ministers urged 40,000 retired HGV licence holders to return to work to help fill up petrol stations and deliver necessary stock to supermarkets.

A senior Government source told the Telegraph a temporary relaxation of rules would enable more EU workers to help replenish the shortage of drivers.

But the source added: “We need to be paying these people more rather than just flooding the market with cheap labour.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the changes, with the visas available from next month, would “ensure preparations remain on track” for the festive season.

He added the Government is “very keen” to help the HGV sector, but acknowledged there is a “systemic problem” regarding how drivers are hired.

Mr Shapps told Sky News, the sector needs to recruit a broader ranger of employees rather than just “99 percent male and with an average age of 55”.

The Transport Secretary said: “In other sectors, there are already schemes that help people to come in to say, pick fruit, as a seasonal role.”

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Retailers warned the Government it had just 10 days to save Christmas from “significant disruption” amid a 90,000 driver shortfall.

Military HGV test examiners are being drafted in to get 4,000 British truck drivers onto roads.

The plan announced by the Government would see more recruits trained in the next 12 weeks to plug the HGV driver shortage which has already left many supermarket shelves bare.

A million letters are being sent out to drivers who hold an HGV licence, encouraging them to back to work.

Andrew Opie of the British Retail Consortium said the move was not enough to effectively counteract the move.

Mr Opie said: “The limit of 5,000 visas will do little to alleviate the current shortfall.

“Supermarkets estimate they need at least 15,000 HGV drivers for their businesses to be able to operate at full capacity ahead of Christmas.”

Mr Shapps said the solution is a short-term fix and overseas labour it not a permanent answer.

He said: “We are acting now but the industries must also play their part with salary increases to retain new drivers.”

The visa scheme will also involve 5,500 foreign poultry workers which will help to ensure Britons can get turkeys for Christmas.

In addition to this move, the Department of Education is working to recruit more drivers.

The DoE has dedicated £10m for Skills Bootcamps to train 3,000 of the drivers while the other 1,000 will take local adult education courses.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: “We are taking action to tackle the shortage of drivers by removing barriers to help more people to launch new careers.”

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