Uncertainty over the immigration system after Brexit next year will compound the industry’s driver shortage and goods and services could grind to a halt, according to an FTA report.

The FTA’s skills shortage report showed that there has been no let up in the struggle among haulage and logistics business to recruit HGV drivers.

The shortage currently stands at an estimated 52,000, but there are serious concerns the figure could rise sharply in the event of a no deal outcome.

Sally Gilson, FTA head of skills, said: “Having the freedom to recruit from across the EU has helped to keep our lorries and vans on the road but with uncertainty surrounding the parameters of a future immigration system, the logistics sector is concerned that there just won’t be enough drivers available to transport the goods and raw materials the UK is reliant upon.

“The migration advisory committee report recommended restricting lower-skilled immigration. However, logistics businesses are reliant on those workers to keep goods and services moving.

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“Unless domestic workers can be incentivised to switch careers or take up a meaningful apprenticeship in logistics – something which the industry has been pressing government on for a while – businesses will remain dependent on these migrant workers.”

She added: “No one wants vehicles to grind to a halt, but it is a real prospect if the government does not prioritise the confirmation of the workforce which is tasked with keeping Britain trading.”

These concerns are echoed by an Essex-based haulage operator that did not wish to be named.

It told MT  that the strength of the pound against the euro was also affecting the number of migrant workers available in the UK. “They can earn a similar income and remain closer to home, so we have had instances where an uncomfortable number of drivers have gone to Germany, for example,” a company spokesman said.

“We have had to increase wages to attract drivers and also set up extensive induction processes to train drivers with limited right hand drive experience so we can effectively import employees into the business.

“I had an agency driver turn up very recently with a non UK licence passed in June this year and no UK driving experience at all. It was a recipe for disaster.

“It appears that agencies are also scraping the barrel and yet charging a premium.”

The operator added: “It will get worse I am sure; without these migrants the haulage industry will definitely stall.

"Anyone in the UK needs to look around and ask the question, how many young people are interested in the transport industry?”