Peterborough hauliers urge ministers to slash red tape to get HGV drivers back on the road

Hauliers in Peterborough have called on the Government to cut through the red tape that is putting the brakes on HGV drivers getting back into the cab.

Andrew Howard MD of PC Howard. ENGEMN00120110914162042
Andrew Howard MD of PC Howard. ENGEMN00120110914162042

Top of the list of demands to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps are the suspension of the five year medical test and the CPC competency course to allow former drivers to get back behind the wheel.

They say a focus on removing barriers to return to the industry are key to beginning to fill the 100,000 national HGV driver shortfall that has interrupted the supply of goods to shops and fuel to filling stations.

Andrew Howard, managing director of haulage company PC Howard, based at Stamford Road, King’s Cliffe, which employs 100 drivers, said he is currently short of 10 HGV drivers.

Some of the Rel Transport fleet.

In addition, the company, which pays a Class One driver between £40,000 and £45,000 a year, lost 20 drivers who returned to their homes across the European mainland after Brexit.

Mr Howard said: “We are 10 drivers down so when someone is off sick or on holiday it’s difficult to fill the gaps.

“And the demands from customers are intense - everyone wants their items delivered yesterday.”

But Mr Howard said the HGV driver shortage had been years in the making and that plans to offer 5,000 visas to overseas drivers or to bring in the military would be ineffective.

Founder of REL Andy Scott. EMN-200122-145139009

He said: “Twenty five years ago the Government began increasing the barriers to enter the industry.

“It is ludicrous.

“The Government needs to do away with the rules.

“It needs to immediately suspend the five year medical test rule and suspend the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC), which requires a week in the classroom before you event get back into a cab.

“If these rules were suspended people with HGV licences who wanted to return to the industry could so straight away.”

Andy Scott, owner of REL Transport, in Southgate Way, Orton Southgate, said a shortage of drivers had seen the firm’s weekly turnover fall by about half to £60,000.

He said: “We can’t find drivers to send trucks out.

“We used to have 35 to 40 trucks out in Peterborough every day.

“Now we are only running 15 to 18.”

Mr Scott said he hoped salary increases would attract former drivers back unto the industry and also encourage youngsters to see it as a career.

The business is also paying £4,000 for drivers to get trained and that its insurers had agreed to insuring 22-year-olds with the right experience.

Mr Scott said salaries had been increased from £32,000 to £35,000 and again to £42,000 over a six month period.

He said: “But drivers are still being poached by supermarkets for £50,000 and a promise of 10 per cent off their shopping bills.

“But hopefully with the new salaries younger people will see the transport sector as a career, which they haven’t done over the last 20 years.

“The average age of a driver is late 50s so we would have faced a driver crisis anyway.

But he warned: “This isn’t a quick fix.

“It’s going to be a long slog to train and retain and hopefully there will be a long term change in the way HGV drivers are perceived and valued as key workers.

He added: “The interesting thing for me is that as the cost to public to have orders delivered the next day goes up, whether the customer will be prepared to pay for the convenience.”

A spokeswoman for the Road Haulage Association, which has its head office as Bretton, said: “The Government was warned in 2014 about a shortage of HGV drivers. This hasn’t just happened over night.

“We need to find ways to encourage those people who hold HGV licences but have left the industry to return and we need to work out how to attract more people into the sector.

“Three month-long visas for overseas HGV drivers are unlikely to be attractive to anyone and only represents a drop in the ocean of a national shortfall of 100,000 drivers,

She added: “But we would also urge motorists not to panic buy.

“There isn’t a shortage of feul - it is just taking longer to deliver it to the filling stations.”