Driver shortage 'biggest post-Brexit roadblock' for haulage industry

Driver shortages remain the single biggest crisis in the haulage industry in the wake of Brexit, with a shortfall of nearly 70,000, according to courier firm Speedy Freight – which also cites the ongoing impact of red tape.

The firm explained there were two main explanations behind the shortage of drivers of HGVs and small vans.

"Firstly, in the build-up to Brexit itself, many European drivers decided to leave the UK due to the uncertainty over their right to live and work post-Brexit, reducing the overall number of available drivers in the country,” the firm said.

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“Secondly, even though the new protocols are now firmly in place, it’s become common for remaining drivers to prioritise UK-based contracts ahead of EU ones, to avoid any potential delays that may arise at the border.”

It has been calculated that there has been a driver shortfall of more than 65,000 across the UK since January. Picture: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images.
It has been calculated that there has been a driver shortfall of more than 65,000 across the UK since January. Picture: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images.

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Speedy Freight, citing the Road Haulage Association, said the combination of both issues has led to a “staggering” driver shortfall of more than 65,000 across the UK since January – and this was already having a knock-on effect on logistics across the country.

It added that for many larger brands, there just isn’t the driver supply to keep up with customer demand, especially in recent months now the UK is easing out of lockdown.

Additionally, the firm said that since January, many businesses have turned to same-day couriers to bridge gaps in the supply chain, with demand up by more than a quarter.

Speedy Freight says not all of its clients have adjusted to the new rules. Picture: David Mulholland.

Speedy Freight – which in Scotland has branches in Dumfries, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh – said that since January 1, some industries have managed to adapt to the new rules and regulations, but many are being caught out by the new red tape, with lengthy delays costing them both time and money.

According to Speedy Freight, the clients currently facing the worst delays are those shipping products of animal origins, with reports of delays of up to 72 hours for some shipments.

Scottish seafood lorries, for example, made the headlines in January when they descended on central London to protest the post-Brexit paperwork they said had left the UK fishing industry struggling to survive.

Improvement

Speedy Freight network service manager and “resident Brexit expert” Shona Brown said: “Obviously things have improved from the initial changes in January. There was a period when we were receiving daily requests for assistance from drivers stuck at the border – now when issues are only arising, it’s only weekly or monthly.”

But she added that not all of the firm’s customers have adjusted to the new rules.

“Generally, it’s been smaller clients such as [small and medium-sized enterprises] that have had the least trouble as they can be agile in their response to change,” she said. “It’s the bigger, national brands that are still being caught out as they can be quite set in their ways.”

The firm said even though some clients had yet to adjust to the new rules and regulations, it was already braced for a new wave of adjustments, with the next set of protocol changes due to begin from October.

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