The national shortage of lorry drivers has led Tesco to offer recruits a £1,000 joining bonus.
The bonus has been publicised via a job advert posted on Tesco’s site, with the supermarket telling potential candidates: “You’ll play a vital role for our customers and communities, representing Tesco on the highways and byways of the UK.”
Candidates who join the supermarket giant before 30 September will be eligible for the windfall.
Morrisons, meanwhile, was said to be developing schemes to train staff to become lorry drivers and other food supply companies are said to be following suit.
According to the Road Haulage Association (RHA) the UK is short of about 100,000 HGV drivers, with the Covid pandemic leading to 30,000 HGV driving tests not taking place last year.
Rod McKenzie, managing director of the RHA, said it had become “increasingly competitive” to recruit drivers. Wages had also been pushed higher because of the “diminishing number” of HGV drivers, he added.
Supermarkets have been pushing the cost of higher wages on to suppliers, with Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco among those asking suppliers to pay more towards goods collections.
Brexit was also a contributory factor in the lack of drivers and, at present, the need for some workers to self isolate after being pinged by the NHS Covid app. Although some drivers will no longer have to self isolate, hauliers and unions have been highly critical of the red tape involved in applying for workers to be made exempt.
There have also been claims that some disruption in the supply of drivers has been caused by tax changes that mean drivers previously treated as self-employed and who could offset tax against expenses, now had to be paid via PAYE.
The United Road and Transport Union has been highlighting the skills gap in driving for a long period. A spokesperson said: “Our union has been warning for many, many years that there will become a point when there will not be enough professional drivers to ensure that supplies are delivered, businesses can continue operating and our supermarkets are fully stocked. All that the pandemic has done is make this happen sooner.”
Council services and petrol stations have also been affected with garbage collections and fuel deliveries unable to take place.
Darren Rodwell, environment spokesperson for the Local Government Association, said: “These issues are partly due to the increase in ‘pinged’ staff but also a larger problem with a shortage of HGV drivers.
“The announcement that waste collection staff can apply for exemption is pleasing, but we are awaiting details on how quick the application process will be and whether it includes all waste collection staff.”
McKenzie urged the government to “speed up” driving tests. He said it currently took about six months to fully train a HGV driver. “We are not seeing any sign of it getting better in the short term,” he added.
There will become a point when there will not be enough professional drivers to ensure that supplies are delivered, businesses can continue operating and our supermarkets are fully stocked. All that the pandemic has done is make this happen sooner” – United Road and Transport Union
He also said a short-term visa for drivers from overseas should be created and the RHA has called on ministers to put HGV drivers on the Home Office Shortage Occupation List.
Some companies are looking to fill the skills gap by broadening the talent pool.
The BBC has reported that wholesale food and catering supplier JJ Foodservice, for example, recently launched a recruitment campaign to encourage more women to become HGV drivers.
“Only 1% of HGV drivers in the UK are women – we want to help change that,” said JJ’s HR manager, Joanna Florczak.
The wholesaler said it was offering “permanent contracts with no evenings or weekends, salaries of up to £35k in London, and no gender pay gap”.
The company’s head of operations, Kaan Hendekli, said: “The UK driver shortage is not going to go away overnight, so we’re doing our part to make HGV driver roles more appealing to a wider diversity of people.”
So far the government’s response to the shortage has been to grant a temporary extension of lorry drivers’ working hours, consult on ways of boosting driver test capacity and consider issuing provisional licences.
Latest HR job opportunities on Personnel Today