Government must do more to address HGV shortage, says ESA

The Environmental Services Association (ESA) yesterday (2 August) issued an open letter to Priti Patel MP, Secretary of State for the Home Office, expressing its concerns over the shortage of Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) drivers emerging across the recycling and waste management sector.

The letter, which was co-signed by 14 organisations, outlines how the shortage is impacting essential services, and additionally may undermine the UK’s green economic recovery in the future.

A large Veolia truck
The organisations listed as co-signers of the open letter include Veolia, Biffa, SUEZ, FCC Environment, Hills Waste Solutions Ltd, and Viridor, amongst others.

The UK has been suffering from a shortage of HGV drivers for several years, with the issue being exacerbated further by the strain of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic. According to The Economist, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) estimates that UK demand requires a total of 600,000 drivers, with the ESA’s letter setting the shortage at 100,000.

The letter highlights the 15 per cent vacancy rate the industry is currently experiencing for driving roles, stating that ‘it is proving very challenging to fill this resourcing gap given the dynamics of this labour market’.

Several large retailers are offering new drivers significant bonuses and sign-on fees, with the deficit additionally resulting in supermarket shortages. Tesco recently announced that it would be offering a £1000 bonus to new drivers employed between July and September. Aldi additionally outlined measures to tackle the shortage, with the firm increasing drivers wages as an incentive.

The letter calls on the Government to provide the recycling and waste management industry with urgent relief to address short-term resourcing pressures. Whilst it acknowledges that the Government has made ‘attempts’ to support the industry, it states that existing measures, such as relaxations to drivers hours rules, will have ‘negative health and safety implications’.

The letter outlines measures to effectively address the shortage, such as a two-year derogation to the points-based immigration rules for trained HGV drivers, which it says will ‘[allow the] sector, as well as others across the economy, sufficient access to a wider pool of drivers while we recruit and train the next generation of domestic drivers.’

Measures such as these, the letter states, would prevent the sector from ‘falling off a cliff-edge’ and ‘ensure that [it] can continue to keep the wheels turning on essential services – protecting the environment and public health while supporting the UK’s green recovery.’

Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State for the Department for Transport, and George Eustice MP, Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs, are listed as additional addressees, with the ESA stating that it ‘welcome[s] urgent further dialogue and look[s] forward to working with [the Government] to resolve this pressing issue’.