With more than 45,000 HGV driver tests outstanding at the DVSA as a result of the Covid-19 lockdowns, Logistics UK is calling on the government to introduce a seasonal visa for European HGV drivers to protect the nation’s supply chain while the agency catches up with the backlog.

Chief executive David Wells (pictured) warned: “Our members urgently need drivers to be available now while DVSA catches up with the backlog of outstanding driving tests. Without this temporary cover, there is a very real risk to the availability of the food and other vital items on which we rely during the summer months.”

Wells said the suspension of HGV driving tests during the Covid-19 lockdowns combined with 79,000 European logistics workers returning to their home countries following Brexit, has left hauliers struggling to recruit new drivers. He warned this situation will be exacerbated by summer holidays, as HGV drivers take a hard earned break.

Wells also questioned why agricultural workers qualify for temporary visa status but not HGV drivers, stating: “The government recently granted temporary visa status for agricultural workers to ensure that important crops are picked and made available for UK consumers. But without temporary visa status for the drivers to move this food to where it is needed, the supply chain will break down at the first hurdle. The two sectors work hand in hand and should be treated in the same way."

DVSA estimates that it can undertake 118,000 HGV driver tests in the remainder of 2021, but it will take months to catch up on the existing backlog of outstanding examinations.

Wells called on the government to act to speedily increase the number of new recruits needed to enter the market: “Even before the loss of our EU workers, logistics was suffering from a chronic shortage of drivers," he said. "It takes time and money to train new recruits to be ready to enter our highly regulated industry, but with many people suffering the effects of the current economic downturn, this cost can be prohibitive.

“We need government to prioritise the implementation of funded training to open the industry up to as many people as possible, to counteract the long term recruitment issues which logistics has faced for many years, and attract a new generation of drivers and other employees to the sector as older personnel retire and leave the industry.”