Driver shortages made worse by tax changes

4 May 2021

With pallet firms having to extend next day deliveries by up to five days, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) has called for urgent Government action to ease a growing driver shortage crisis which is being exacerbated by the introduction of IR35 tax changes.

The loss of so many EU nationals after Brexit was already causing deep problems for the sector, it points out, before the standstill in testing new drivers during the lockdown left a backlog of thousands of tests — and sidelined many potential new recruits.

“Covid-19 saw the introduction of IR35 delayed by one year”, the RHA noted, “but it’s now hitting many firms and drivers. No-one likes a pay cut and drivers’ anger resulted in walkouts and self-furloughing — further exacerbating the driver shortage.”

Rod McKenzie, RHA policy managing director, said: “The RHA firmly believes that if the voice of the industry isn’t heard there will be uncontrolled supply chain disruption. This will impact many businesses ability to recover from the pandemic.”

The Association is calling on the Government to act in a number of areas, including:

  • driving tests: with maximum priority for vocational drivers to clear the backlog. Hundreds of would-be lorry drivers are desperate to work but the test delays mean they can’t get their all-important HGV licenses

  • Occupation Shortage List: the Government must put lorry drivers on the list, thereby allowing EU and other foreign drivers to fill some rota gaps (although there is also a massive driver shortage in the EU Member States)

  • apprenticeships: the haulage industry has paid £500 million into the Levy and got back just £50 million, an unfair payout for an industry with a critical staff and youth shortage

  • funding: more help is needed to pay for expensive lorry training

  • driver facilities: new recruits will not want to join the industry if action is not taken to provide improved toilets, wash facilities and safe and secure parking.

The RHA concludes that the Government cannot, as it has done previously, simply relax the rules on drivers’ hours as this fails to deal with the fundamental problems.

“Making people work longer hours isn’t the solution,” it stressed.