The deaths of 31 men and eight women found in a refrigerated trailer in Essex has caused shock and alarm throughout the industry and has prompted calls for the UK Border Force to do more to prevent such situations from arising.
We are fully behind Road Haulage Association chief executive, Richard Burnett, when he speaks about concerns over trucks being used for human trafficking and drivers being put at serious risk and in almost impossible positions.
The industry, he says, has not been taken seriously. “For years we have been shouting from the rooftops that these things have been happening week in and week out. Despite this I think that the drivers who are making these journeys feel that they are not being heard; that they’re not being listened to or supported. We have tried hard with the Home Office and with Border Force to make sure that the drivers making the journey from the European mainland to the UK have a voice.”
We agree with him that there appears to be insufficient focus and support and that this issue isn’t being tackled head on as it should. Perhaps this recent tragedy might just concentrate the minds of the powers that be to finally put the industry’s concerns at the top of their agenda.
Another major issue for the industry is the continuing shortage of HGV drivers in the UK; it has climbed to 59,000 with 64% of transport and storage businesses now facing severe skills shortages, according to a recent report by FTA who say that the combination of an ageing workforce, low unemployment, declining EU net migration and difficulties attracting new candidates to the sector has created the perfect storm of driver shortages.
That too few young people are considering a career as an HGV driver is blamed on several reasons, say the FTA, including a lack of understanding of the industry, poor sector image, working hours and lack of quality driver facilities. So, there’s a lot of work to be done, then, to address these issues, and we know much is already happening; hopefully those efforts will eventually produce some positive results.
On a lighter and happier note, this issue of Export & Freight carries a comprehensive report in words and pictures of who won what and why at our recent Transport & Logistics awards; well done to all our deserving winners!