Government plans to allow foreign lorry drivers to undertake unlimited deliveries in the UK for two weeks at a time are a “shameful betrayal” of UK lorry drivers and haulage operators.

The accusation is made in RHA’s response to the DfT’s short 7-day consultation which seeks views on extending road haulage cabotage rights for non-UK lorry operators in the UK.

Under the plan, non-UK lorry operators would be allowed to undertake unlimited UK domestic freight transportation for two weeks after their arrival in the UK with an international load with no corresponding relaxation for UK operators in the EU or EEA.

According to the RHA, the proposal came originally from Dutch haulage companies who wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggesting they could supply lorries to deal with the UK driver shortage.

RHA’s submission to the consultation makes clear it totally opposes the proposal which it claims would “off-shore the labour, the wages, the business itself, all taxes and the regulatory accountability to outside of the UK” with no control on the numbers of lorries and the application of UK minimum wages.

It adds: “A driver can stay almost indefinitely in the UK without a visa while the lorries are rotated on international trade.”

The RHA warns that non-EU operators would have lower fuel costs, would not have to pay UK fuel duty and would be able to pay lower wages to their drivers, often below the UK minimum wage rate, with the drivers not required to pay national insurance or income tax in the UK.

Read more

It adds: “These cost advantage factors have always been part of the UK cabotage landscape. They have supressed UK haulage rates, and thus wage rates, in key supply chain sectors for many years. However, those impacts were contained to some extent by the old cabotage limits of a maximum of 3 trips in 7 days and the new limit of 2 trips in 7 days.

“The proposal to double the time allowed to work in the UK and to permit unlimited trips will allow the exploitation of those cost advantages to be unconstrained in a way never seen before. In addition, the proposals add in non-EU haulage operators, who for the first time, will be able to undertake unlimited cabotage in the UK,” it warns.

The submission also argues the plans will undermine the moves made to address the driver shortage via increased training and testing and the recently improved wage levels for UK HGV drivers that the shortage has brought about.

The RHA also questions why the government is advocating the proposal given the alternatives available which it has already suggested to the government.

“Action on Driver CPC could allow thousands of UK workers to return to the profession, the failure to act on this is a missed opportunity for drivers and operators.

“We do not understand why Driver CPC reform to get UK drivers back into UK lorries has not been taken forward. Our internal estimate is that action could realistically attract up to 17,250 drivers.”

It also says that the government’s decision to issue only 5,000 visas for HGV drivers was “another missed opportunity."

“The current visa proposal is far too restrictive to be attractive for most employers and employees. A defined number of one-year temporary visas could work, two years or through the Shortage Occupation List would be better.”

In conclusion the RHA says it is opposed to the proposal adding that if any change is made to the cabotage rules, it should be a return to the 3 trips in 7 days until 31 January 2022 and no further, with all non-UK operators required to apply for a cabotage permit.