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Haulage in South Holland is at crisis point due to driver shortages

Haulage in South Holland has hit ‘crisis point’ due to a serious shortage of drivers, caused by the perfect storm of Brexit and tax changes.

The area is facing a shortfall of at least 100 drivers which is having a knock-on effect of food being dumped because trucks are not rolling.

Lorries are left languishing in the yards across the area – costing firms money – as there are not enough drivers who have left either to return home following Brexit or due to increased tax payments following the introduction of IR35 rules. Fears are also high that the army may be called upon to help deliver vital supplies.

Phoenix Drivers are raising awareness (48894076)
Phoenix Drivers are raising awareness (48894076)

People in the industry are now calling on the Government to give lorry drivers skilled worker classification in order to draw back European truckers along with providing more investment for training – which costs £5,000.

Phoenix Drivers is holding a recruitment day later this month in order to attract people back into the driving seat who have left the industry.

Managing director Graham Brown said: “This is not just a local crisis but a national one.

“We are at crisis point.

“In Spalding we are short of 100 to 120 drivers. I have known it like this in 21 years.

“I know of some hauliers who have 20 trucks parked in because they have not got the drivers.

“If that product doesn’t get delivered, it gets chucked or reworked.

“This has been coming for 15 years. We have relied heavily in haulage on European drivers and the Government hasn’t invested in our drivers.”

Mr Brown said that the issues which have driven people away from the industry include poor conditions, such as staying in laybys as there are no places at truck stops, which have dirty facilities.

He said pay has also been an issue in the past – pay rates are currently £9.75 to £11.25 an hour.

A total of 28,000 HGV tests – which cost £5,000 – were cancelled as a result of the pandemic last year.

From April 6, self employed lorry drivers were hit by the introduction of IR35, which has resulted in them losing money as a result of increased tax and national insurance payments. And Brexit has also affected the industry as a lot of European drivers have returned home.

Mr Brown said: “If the Government placed lorry drivers on the skilled workers list, I think that would tempt people back. Now they have to spend £500 to £600 on getting a visa.

“More money should be pumped into training which would help those on furlough, or unemployed. I think the Government need to look at spending money on training to help the industry.”

One of the firms affected by the current labour shortage is Chris Eley in Spalding.

Transport manager Rob Banks said that he is now having to book additional drivers up to a fortnight in advance.

Mr Banks, who said the firm’s 15 trucks should be running seven days a week, added: “It is very difficult at the moment and not just with the haulage but across the board with workers to be out in the fields and in the packhouses. The driver situation is absolutely ridiculous.

“On a bad day I can have four trucks sat in the yard. I have work for them but with the drivers I have on the books and those that are supplied by Phoenix, it is not enough.”

Mr Brown is holding open days at his site in Enterprise Way, Pinchbeck, on Tuesday, July 20, and Wednesday, July 21, from 9am to 4pm.

He said: “Things have changed. Pay is getting better and so are conditions.”

For more information call 01775 762686.

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