Prices to rise as trucker shortage 'getting worse', say Suffolk hauliers

port of felixstowe

More than 4,000 lorries a day collect goods delivered by container from the Port of Felixstowe - but the haulage industry is facing a huge shortage of drivers - Credit: PICTURE COURTESY OF THE PORT OF FELIXSTOWE

Hauliers in Suffolk say the shortage of truck drivers is getting worse by the day - and heading for a crisis.

They say the growing costs associated with the difficulties and demands in getting goods to shops and businesses will have to be passed onto consumers, leading to higher prices.

The Road Haulage Association and Felixstowe Port Users' Association are both demanding urgent action from the government.

It is estimated that the industry has a shortfall of up to 100,000 drivers.

RHA area manager Tom Cornwell said: “It won’t be long before the impact of the driver shortage crisis is felt beyond our industry as the costs of moving goods rises significantly – and those costs will have to be passed on to the consumer.

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"This is a critical issue for the economy, and it’s why we’ve issued ministers with a number of short- and long-term solutions to get people behind the wheel.”

Jason Flower, chairman of The Felixstowe Port Users’ Association, said: “With Brexit sending ripples throughout the wider logistics sector, nobody envisaged it would impede the availability of qualified drivers.

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"Critically impacting on hauliers’ ability to do business, it’s heartening to see the industry come together as a whole and appealing to government to work with us to find a way out of this untenable situation.”

Paula Bennett of Suffolk-based logistics website Porttalk, said: “The current problem is caused by a range of issues coming together simultaneously, which in turn are prompting unprecedented measures from hauliers to recruit and retain drivers.”

The issues include drivers not being added to the UK Shortage Occupation List, Brexit, tax changes, sector apprenticeships not fit for purpose, and a 30,000 backlog of cancelled HGV driving tests leaving potential drivers side-lined.

Around 3,000 drivers have indicated they are prepared to take part in strike action on August 23 to highlight the situation.

Paul Miller, chief executive of Goldstar Transport, said: “The driver shortage is worsening by the day resulting in a considerable deficit in availability and an actual inability to cover volume.

“The recent changes to IR35 legislation are forcing agencies to increase rates upward. UK occupational shortage list regulations restricting European drivers’ availability and lack of training due to CV-19 has reduced the number of new drivers coming into the industry and has created the perfect storm. There will be vehicles stood and cargo not delivered as a result.”

The Department of Transport says it is working with the industry to solve the problems. It has announced a temporary relaxation on drivers' hours, consultation on streamlining the HGV licence rules, and improvements to working conditions.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "I understand the challenges faced by drivers and operators right now and while longer-term solutions must be led first and foremost by industry leaders, today we are saying this government is here to help. 

"This set of measures will kickstart that help, easing pressure on the sector as we work together to attract new drivers, improve conditions and ensure the industry’s future is a prosperous one."

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