RHA pushes for action on driver shortages

Peterborough, UK: The UK’s ongoing driver shortage, and the new changes to IR35 (off-payroll working) tax rules, have created a perfect storm for the logistics industry, according to the Road Haulage Association.

The RHA’s comments came as the Grocer reported that driver shortages are now having an effect on deliveries to convenience stores.

“The driver shortage was already critical, with many EU truckers heading home for obvious, Brexit-related reasons,” the RHA said. “This has been made worse by a complete failure to test new drivers during lockdown, leaving a backlog of thousands of tests – and potential drivers sidelined. Then came IR35.  Let’s be clear this was a tax loophole used by some as a blatant tax dodge. We are against bogus self-employment.

“The Government is right to close this loophole, and to point out that to be a self-employed driver you need to have your own truck and work to your schedule – not that of the boss of a firm. However, no-one likes a pay cut and anger from drivers has led some agencies and individuals to behave in an unscrupulous and likely illegal way. We all know the effect that anger has caused with walkouts and self-furloughing happening and exacerbating the driver shortage. Ultimately, we know this will all add to cost and our customers paying more,” the RHA said.

The RHA has listed a raft of measures needed to speed up recruitment of new drivers. These included prioritisation and increased capacity for driver tests to clear the backlog that has developed during the pandemic, and adding lorry drivers to the government’s occupation shortage list, which would allow EU and other foreign drivers to fill gaps, along with further investment in apprenticeships.

“The RHA firmly believes that if the voice of the industry isn’t heard there will be uncontrolled supply chain disruption,” Rod McKenzie, policy managing director, RHA, said.

“This will impact many business’ ability to recover from the pandemic. Time is tight and action now is critically important.”

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