HGV driver shortage: Suffolk Chamber says Government visa scheme 'naive'

Huge fuel queues filled the car park at Oldings Corner Tesco Extra store.

A common sight over the week: a huge fuel queue filled the car park at a Tesco store - Credit: Matthew Smith

A temporary visa scheme to combat the lorry driver shortage has been deemed 'naïve' by the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce - amid concerns drivers won't want to work in the UK for such a short time period.

A total of 5,000 HGV drivers will be offered the right to work in the UK, but the visas will only last until Christmas Eve.

The ongoing shortage of drivers has seen a disruption to fuel deliveries across the country, with many petrol stations closing or restricting sales due to the high demand.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (

Grant Shapps has said the short term scheme will mean the industry won't have to rely on overseas labour workers in the long run - Credit: PA

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who has insisted there is no lack of petrol in the country, said in an interview on the Andrew Marr Show that: "We don't want to rely on overseas labour in the longer run, which is why this is limited to Christmas because we've got to sort out these long term problems with our HGV sector."

The Suffolk Chamber of Commerce has questioned the logic behind the Government's plan and whether it will have the desired impact.

“This appears to be a Government curiously out-of-touch at the moment not only with the realities of the needs of our members and the wider Suffolk business community, but with the realities of how people lead their lives," said Paul Simon, head of communications and policy.


Paul Simon of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce - Credit: SUFFOLK CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

“The three-month temporary visas being offered to EU HGV drivers falls well short of our calls for a year-long extension, in order for the haulage sector - working with Government - to have a plan in place to encourage, develop and train the necessary home-grown drivers.

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“We are also worried that this is a rather naïve baby step, as it is predicated upon significant numbers of EU drivers wishing to switch from their current contracts and family commitments to come over to the UK for such a short period of time."

The chamber is now urging Suffolk’s MPs and council leaders to use their influence to expand the number of visas issued and organise a summit to help find immediate and longer-term solutions. 

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Mr Simon added: "Without further action, we now face the very real prospect of serious scarring to the Suffolk economy, stifled growth as well as another less than happy Christmas for many local businesses and their customers in the county and beyond.” 

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