The boss of haulage firm Moody Logistics has written to transport secretary Grant Shapps asking for urgent action to tackle the huge shortage of qualified HGV drivers.

The UK now has an estimated shortfall of 65,000 HGV drivers, exacerbated by Brexit and IR35 tax changes forcing up driver costs.

Moody Logistics MD Caroline Moody (pictured) is warning that the situation has reached crisis point and has called for an urgent review of the procedures surrounding HGV licensing and testing to create greater capacity and efficiencies within the system.

The family-run firm, which is based in Cramlington, Northumberland, recently recruited two driver apprentices to address the driver shortfall, estimated nationally at 59,000.

However, Moody said the apprentice training process, which takes between 12 and 18 months, is being hampered by unnecessary delay.

She said: “The government can better support the logistics industry by speeding up the procedures around HGV licence applications and prioritising and creating more appointments for theory and driving tests.

“For example, we sent an application for a provisional HGV licence for one of our driver apprentices more than a month ago. We are still waiting.”

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Her letter follows the launch of a campaign by the RHA, which says the industry requires immediate access to the global labour market. It has called upon the Home Office to add HGV drivers to the UK Shortage Occupation List and consider a Seasonal or Temporary Visa scheme for qualified lorry drivers.

Moody added: “Some areas of the country were traditionally more reliant on EU HGV drivers, which partly papered over the cracks.

“The average age of a lorry driver in this country is 53 and the fact is that not enough skilled younger people are joining the profession to stem the numbers leaving.

“Driver apprenticeships gave us the opportunity to offer people a clear path into a skilled, well-paid and in-demand career.

“At the height of the pandemic, everyone realised the importance of logistics in keeping this country fed and supplied and recognised HGV drivers as key workers. That hasn’t changed.

“The situation was also magnified by the pandemic, which impacted on driver training and testing – to the extent it is threatening the effectiveness of many fleets.

“I’m appealing to Grant Shapps to create a more effective and responsive system that can allow the industry to produce more qualified drivers. It’s a problem that, if left unchecked, will seriously impact this country’s future economic growth.”