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How Will Immigration Policies Impact Haulage?

Written by
Fleet Ex
Date of Publication:
01 March 2021

Brexit cannot be blamed for all the challenges the haulage industry is currently facing. On the other hand, it isn't helping either. In particular, it's making recruitment even harder.

The shortage of HGV drivers

Even before Brexit, the shortage of HGV drivers was a major concern to the haulage industry. What's more, there were already clear warning signs that the situation was only going to get worse. The average age of HGV drivers has been steadily increasing for some time. In other words, as older drivers retire, they are not being replaced by younger people.

While the UK was in the EU, the haulage industry could deal with this problem, at least to some extent, by employing international workers. Post-Brexit, it can only do this if the government recognizes HGV drivers as a skilled occupation. Right now, however, the government seems very unwilling to do this.

Politics versus practice

In theory, the government has a reasonable point. It may seem hugely unfair to class HGV drivers as unskilled. At the end of the day, however, you can get a CPC in under 2 months. This is a fraction of the time it takes to get a university degree. What's more, for many professions, a degree is just the start of the process. It needs to be followed by some form of post-graduate training.

In practice, however, the amount of training HGV drivers need to undergo is a barrier to entry. It's basically two months of full-time study. This means that the effective cost is the training plus the lost earning potential over the training period.

What's more, HGV drivers tend to have to pay for their training themselves, at least the first time they qualify. Re-qualifying drivers may be supported by an employer, but then again, they may not. This may push them to move on from the industry quicker than they otherwise would have done.

While it's true that students often have to pay for their tuition, their repayments are linked directly to their earnings. HGV drivers, by contrast, often have to take out standard loans. This means that they need to make the repayments no matter what.

Immigration versus training

There are two ways to resolve the current shortage of HGV drivers. One is for the government to change its stance on immigration. The other is for it to do more to support driver training. Theoretically, it could do either or combine both. Politically, it is likely to lean heavily, if not exclusively, towards the latter.

The government may be persuaded to reclassify certain areas of haulage as skilled occupations, or at least as shortage occupations. This would likely be the C+E area. For the most part, however, they're probably going to want to push for the recruitment of more UK drivers. If so, they're going to have to find a way to address the issue of funding driver training.

One possibility is that the government will target support to certain demographics such as the long-term unemployed, ex-offenders and women. This would help it to achieve social objectives as well as practical ones.