North East England Chamber of Commerce has urged the Government to tackle the huge problems currently facing the transport and logistics sector due to Brexit challenges and a rise in on-line purchasing.
In a letter to the Department of Transport the Chamber stressed how important the sector is for the North East’s recovery with 90% of goods transported via roads and a severe shortage of drivers.
Marianne O Sullivan, Chamber policy adviser said: “Brexit uncertainty and a pandemic that allowed online markets to grow very quickly have exacerbated pressures on the logistics industry. For example, in Q1 2021 there was a 46% increase in home deliveries.
“As well as pressures from online ordering the industry is also seeing a reduction in EU drivers. According to Logistics UK there was a 36.3% fall in EU HGV drivers in the UK in Q2 2020 compared to 2019. As well as these shortages the industry is also facing an ageing workforce, 47% of UK drivers are over the age of 50 with only 1% currently under 25.”
In the letter the Chamber pays tribute to the logistics industry, which is playing its part to make careers within it more attractive to new drivers through improving working conditions investing in new vehicles and greater health and safety measures.
Measures asked for by the Chamber include support for the high costs of driver qualifications through interest-free loans or grants to enable the industry to train HGV drivers themselves. It also calls for reforms to the Apprenticeship Levy so businesses can unlock funding, and quickly working through the backlog of HGV tests due to the pandemic. If the skills shortage continues then having HGV drivers added to the Government’s shortage occupation list will also help to attract drivers to the UK.