Export & Freight Aug-Sept 21

he sun may have shone for most of our July break, but the good weather hasn’t masked the problems and challenges facing the transport and logistics industry; one of the major problems that hasn’t gone away is the growing driver and skills shortages.

There are various reports of a lack of qualified drivers and according to one source, as you will read in this issue, a dropof 15,000 UK truck drivers following Brexit coupled with nearly a third of the UK’s 300,000 drivers now over 55 and heading for retirement, means that the shortage has become critical.

The government is continuing its strategy of relaxing the drivers’ hours requirement in a bid to keep the country’s fragile supply chain in tact in the wake of Brexit and the pandemic. But that is only a temporary sticking plaster.

Logistics UK says there needs to be a longer-term solution to the recruitment of drivers – including temporary visas for EU workers to cover the gaps while new recruits can be trained, and interest free loans for those wishing to enter the market – not a stop-gap measure that will heap more pressure on existing workers.

The organisation says, and we agree, that the relaxation of drivers’ hours should only be used in an emergency situation, when a foreseeable end date can be identified. Before the pandemic and Brexit, logistics was already experiencing a shortage of around 76,000 drivers, and Logistics UK now estimates the shortfall to be approximately 90,000 workers.

We have no doubt heads are being banged together behind the scenes in order to come up with a viable solution; what that is, nobody can actually agree on a way forward, but what is clear, action is needed, and now.

Meanwhile, it would be remiss of us here at Export & Freight not to make mention of the fact that the industry in Northern Ireland has lost one of its driving forces to retirement. Managing Director of TBF Thompson, Raymond Crilly, has been regarded both a boss and a friend by many people during a lifetime of service to the industry. He tells us he will miss many things, but not the daily commute to the office; he reckons he has clocked up in excess of one million miles over the years!

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