09/13/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 09/13/2021 03:12
Despite the challenges that we are facing, it has been extremely encouraging to see the proactive response of the sector in not just ensuring that we have enough feet on the ground in the short-term, but also trying to tackle some of the systemic issues that have caused the problems we are now facing.
At FCC Environment, we have launched a national campaign as we aim to recruit more LGV 1 and 2 drivers to bolster our teams of key workers who provide essential waste and recycling services to communities up and down the UK.
It is, however, disheartening to see that, despite efforts from across the waste industry, the Government is not prepared to make concessions to help us address the immediate issue by introducing short-term visas to enable us to recruit HGV drivers from the EU.
As we have seen in correspondence and in the media, the Government is insistent that we should turn to UK workers to find a domestic solution and not rely on a migrant workforce, however temporary. Of course, we are not opposed to this; we are actively recruiting and training local people to work on the local authority contracts we hold.
But we are realistic and know this process will take time for new drivers to be suitably qualified. The Covid-19 pandemic put driver training and testing on hold for 12 months, meaning there is already a huge backlog for the drivers we now need so desperately and across so many sectors.
The Road Haulage Association estimates that there is now a shortage of more than 100,000 drivers in the UK, and that 30% of HGV driver vacancies are taking more than eight weeks to fill.
Of course, a short-term visa will not be the silver bullet to filling these vacancies because there were shortages before Brexit and the pandemic. It will, however, give us some breathing room, and alleviate some of the pressure that our teams are under until the UK workforce can provide the numbers needed and the testing system is capable of processing people as qualified drivers.
After such a challenging 18 months, when our teams of key workers have worked so tirelessly to keep waste and recycling services running, for the Government's solution to be a relaxation to Drivers' Hours rules does not feel proportionate or practical. We are committed to maintaining these services that are vital to all our day-to-day lives and public health, and we will continue to strive to do so - but we cannot do so alone.
We need more Government support, giving us the time we need to attract, train and test the UK drivers required to help solve the issue. As such, FCC Environment once again calls on the Government to reconsider its decision and implement a temporary visa - not so that we can become reliant on workers from overseas, but so we can support our current drivers and help bear the load until such time as we have UK staff in the driving seat.
Paul Taylor is chief executive of FCC EnvironmentBack