The Pallet Network (TPN) is seeking to tackle the crisis in driver recruitment and a poor industry image by offering free evening meals to all its trunking drivers.

The network said it wanted to inspire the UK logistics industry to improve conditions for HGV drivers at a time when firms were reporting a serious shortage of staff, coupled with a record-breaking spike in volumes.

TPN said it was providing hot meals in an on-site pop-up restaurant, with dedicated serving areas under a marquee and outdoor seating to allow for social distancing.

It said the menus had been chosen to be popular but also nutritious and the meal on offer will vary each night.

The free meal scheme started three months ago and is available every week night from late evening until 4am.

In order to encourage healthy habits, drivers must pay for additional fizzy drinks and confectionery.

Mark Kendall, TPN MD, said: “Many of our drivers face long journeys, and we do not want them having to rely on snack food or over-priced service station fare.

“The least we can do for people driving for hours at night is make sure they have a free, hot meal awaiting them when they arrive at the hub.” recently reported that haulage companies were now battling a perfect storm of increasing volumes as the country opened up again, along with a dearth of drivers made worse by a backlog in HGV driver tests.

Logistics UK has urged the DVSA to ramp up its fast-track programme to clear at least 30,000 driving tests postponed during the pandemic, although it estimates that the total shortage of drivers is currently around 76,000.

Kendall said: “We are very aware that many sites in the UK do not even provide the basic facilities which drivers need for human dignity, let alone places to make themselves comfortable and take the comfort and statutory rest breaks they need.

“TPN has great driver facilities, with a rest room, access to TVs, shower, toilet facilities and a full kitchen.

“However, we need to go further as a sector. We don’t want our drivers having to live off microwaved soup or toast. Anyone working the night shift is already foregoing family time and most social meals as they provide an essential service while most UK residents are in their beds.

“It is time we all started to think about what more we can do to ensure that drivers’ journeys are as easy and well accommodated as possible.”