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The skills shortage, Brexit and the push towards low-emission vehicles are the biggest issues facing the road transport industry, the chief executive of the RHA has said.

Speaking this week at a parliamentary reception to mark National Lorry Week, RHA boss Richard Burnett called on MPs to support the industry through the coming challenges.

Burnett told those in attendance that the driver shortage, of some 45,000, was still a concern. “The average age of a HGV driver is 55, and the number of those retiring exceeds the number of those replacing them.

"With Brexit looming, the driver shortage is being exasperated by EU migrant labour heading home because of exchange rates,” he said.

According to the RHA, there are 60,000 drivers working in the UK from other EU member states, which Burnett said meant it was ever more important to train home-grown talent. “We need to find new ways to tackle the shortage and attracting a more diverse workforce,” he added.

He also called for the UK government to ensure the Le Touquet agreement, which enables British border officials to carry out checks in France, is retained. “We must ensure fluid customs procedures at borders to provide ease of movement across Europe, especially at Calais,” he said.

Speaking about the government’s air quality plan, Burnett said it needed further consideration. “It is DEFRAs intention to see all new engines with zero-rated emissions by 2050 and that’s going to have a dramatic impact on this industry,” he said.

To address this, he called for a scrappage scheme for Euro-5 vehicles and older: “We believe clean air zoning structures and any associated tax should be carefully phased. But this isn’t about punishment,” he said, “What’s needed is an incentive, a cost-effective scrappage scheme to encourage operators to replace their Euro-5 or older trucks with Euro-6 models.”

MP for Dover and Deal, Charlie Elphicke, who received a gift of £22,000 from the RHA to pay for a researcher, opened the event at the House of Commons.

He said: "90% of goods come by lorry, which means for those who like cycling, Lycra and all those other things, lorries are very important, which is easy to forget.”