If you have been forced to queue for fuel recently, or wondered why prices are rising, or feared for empty shelves in the shops…..it will come as no surprise that there is a shortage of qualified and willing HGV drivers.
Some say it is all because of Brexit, but that is far too simplistic. Many drivers may have chosen to go home to eastern Europe when we left the EEC, but several nations – Germany in particular – are witnessing a similar shortage of these “knights of the road”.
There have been long delays in conducting HGV tests in this country because of Covid . This has slowed the progress of the UK’s own student lorry drivers to a trickle.
And there is a deeper problem still. Do we really value HGV drivers enough?
On the face of it HGV drivers can earn big money. But the conditions of work do not always measure up to the financial rewards. There are reams of rules and red tape to complete on a daily basis. The regulations are, I am reliably told, a nightmare that has driven many out of the industry altogether.
But another reason this country finds it hard to recruit qualified drivers is the fact that they are rarely offered the respect they deserve.
When an articulated lorry arrives, for example, at any Welcome Break service station on our motorway network hoping to park up for the night there is a charge of up to £31 for the privilege. That’s a lot of money for the right to sleep in your own cab.
In the USA, however, all truck stops are free. And in most part of Europe overnight fees are far smaller. There are also a great many more of them.
Les Routiers is an organisation that began in France in 1935. It links hundreds of dedicated and often very high quality truck stops offering numerous facilities and excellent meals for minimal charges.
In this country, however, we tend to prefer HGVs to be invisible and stick to the so-called ‘greasy spoon’ food outlets. Few, if any, local authorities provide trucks stops, let alone showers Some councils deliberately impose fines for lorries that park on the outskirts of towns. It is as though we don’t want them until we desperately need them.
I believe we should do a lot more at every level of government to ensure that the supply chain functions fairly and efficiently. That means ensuring drivers are encouraged to learn and properly looked after when they do.
It is high time we began right here at home.