The home delivery expert ParcelHero says last week’s Government announcement – through gritted teeth – that 5,000 overseas drivers could return to the UK on temporary visas has been given the cold shoulder by EU truckers.
ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks M.I.L.T., says, ‘The Government’s original, curmudgeonly terms, which would have meant drivers had to return home after Christmas Eve, created almost no interest. What did the Government expect after we effectively threw out thousands of European drivers as “unskilled” workers at the end of last year, following Brexit?
‘This week’s increasingly desperate moves to sweeten the deal, by extending food drivers’ visas until the end of February and fuel tanker drivers’ visas until the end of March, have met an equal lack of enthusiasm. The Prime Minister reportedly admitted yesterday that only 127 drivers have been granted visas so far, including just 27 desperately needed tanker drivers. We’re not expecting a flood later this month as the scheme is rolled out further.
‘Truck drivers are in demand across Europe. Why would they pack in their existing jobs to come back to the UK for a few months? 1.3 million so-called “unskilled” workers, including many thousands of drivers and supply chain workers, were forced to leave the UK after Brexit. Last October, we warned the Government this would create a shortfall of up to 100,000 drivers. Those warnings fell on deaf ears. If the Government thought EU drivers would just forgive and forget, they are sadly mistaken.
‘The recruitment company Indeed says it is now receiving seeing potential interest from some overseas drivers, but these are largely from people based outside the EU. Drivers from India are clicking on UK driver job postings the most, followed by the UAE and South Africa. These potential applicants are unlikely to have the right to work as drivers within the EU, so may see the UK visa scheme as attractive.
‘Meanwhile, in the run-up to Christmas, there has been a 41% decline in the number of EU-registered citizens applying for warehousing and supply chain jobs. That’s a huge shortfall. Retailers and delivery companies rely on a seasonal influx of temporary staff at this time of year. The Prime Minister may say the issue is the fault of industry relying on low skilled, low paid workers from abroad, but with all the EU “unskilled” citizens gone, where are vital temporary staff coming from this year?
‘Retailers have been making their Christmas lists and checking them twice for months. Now is the time goods and components from the EU normally start flooding into warehouses and distribution centres, as manufacturers and retailers organise their Christmas supply chains.
‘Even if the Government suddenly relents and allows thousands of warehouse operatives back on temporary permits, it’s already too late to halt some of the damage done.
‘So far, at least, the express parcels sector has remained largely unaffected by the shortage of drivers and fuel. However, towards Christmas, home deliveries may become increasingly impacted by the loss of over one million workers who formerly worked in distribution centres or drove local delivery vans.
‘The Government’s half-hearted temporary visa scheme is not exactly laying down the welcome mat for EU drivers and logistics workers. Look at it this way: if you were an EU citizen who had been compelled to leave Britain because you didn’t have the skills we deemed valuable at the time of Brexit, would you be eager to return for just a few months?
‘Furthermore, the driver shortage is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the impact of Brexit on the UK’s freight infrastructure.’