Sun, 24 Oct 2021

UK companies want foreign truck drivers, government says no

Robert Besser
26 Sep 2021, 20:01 GMT+10

LONDON, England: With Britain remaining short of tens of thousands of truck drivers, shortages throughout the country range from gasoline, McDonald's milkshakes, KFC chicken and empty supermarket shelves.

Also, BP and Esso have recently shut a handful of petrol stations because gasoline is not being delivered.

"The advice would be to carry on as normal," Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said Friday, as reported by The Associated Press.

In seeking to employ more drivers, officials in the trucking industry are asking the government to loosen immigration rules and recruit more drivers from Europe, especially as the Christmas retail season approaches.

The government, however, has said they would prefer that British citizens fill trucking jobs.

"Driving isn't seen as a 21st-century sexy vocation," said Laurence Bolton, managing director of the National Driving Centre, a school for truck drivers in Croydon, according to the Associated Press.

However, Bolton's school has recently seen a 20 percent increase in applicants.

"It opens up the opportunities," said 31-year-old van driver Stephen Thrower, who is training on trucks. "It's more of a job for life."

Bolton said the trucking crisis was caused by Britain's departure from the European Union, which caused many European workers to return home.

Also, the government tightened loopholes that kept down the taxes many drivers paid.
Further, COVID-19 lockdowns halted drivers being able to train and be tested, thus slowing the flow of new truckers.

While the United States and Germany also have a shortage of drivers, the U.K.'s shortage has been worsened by Brexit.

Upon Britain's departure from the EU, it became more difficult for EU citizens to live and work in the U.K., and more difficult for trucking firms to hire eastern European drivers.

Of note, 1.4 million Europeans left Britain for their home countries so that they could be closer to their families during the Covid pandemic.

Lobbying is underway by Britain's trucking industry to have truck drivers become part of the government's "shortage occupation list," which would make it easier to recruit drivers from Europe.

There are similar calls from Britain's farming and food processing industries, which are short of fruit-pickers and meat-packers.

Meanwhile, the Conservative government continues to refuse to allow foreign workers into the country, saying British workers should be trained to fill the jobs.

"We've continually allowed our domestic market to underperform by essentially having wages undercut by people coming in prepared to do the job for less, and in pretty bad conditions sometimes," Shapps told lawmakers Wednesday. "And that's the wider picture that we're determined to resolve."

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