Transport minister Claire Perry has met a delegation from the RHA to discuss the crippling driver shortage and the RHA’s proposal for a £100m package of grants to train new HGV drivers.

Last week’s meeting followed Perry’s response to a Commons question from Conservative MP Philip Hollobone – whose Kettering constituency includes haulier Knights of Old – supporting the RHA’s call for chancellor George Osborne to include funding for the grants in his Autumn Statement on 3 December.

The RHA estimates that the UK faces a shortfall of 40,000 HGV drivers in the run-up to Christmas. Rather than see an influx of foreign drivers, its chief executive Richard Burnett is calling on the government to “seize the opportunity for transformational funding that will lead a revitalisation and re-direction of the logistics sector, with a solution that is strongly supported by the industry – as opposed to the current tried, tested and failed model”.

The RHA wants the grants to be paid directly to hauliers who have a UK resident ready to train as an HGV driver and has pledged that the money will be used effectively.

“We have evidence that members who are either not recruiting or bringing drivers from abroad will change policy if the grants are announced on 3 December,” said Burnett. “We have large companies queuing up to explain to George Osborne why the RHA’s request is necessary to ensure that growth is not held back.”

According to the latest figures from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), nearly one in five employers predict a shortage of permanent driving roles, and 12% are concerned about a lack of agency drivers in the run-up to Christmas.

Mike Cooper, director at recruiter the Best Connection Group, said: “The real problems will come a little closer to Christmas, when the peak has suddenly become a short, sharp spike, rather than an elongated peak of past years. That’s where you will get a price war and people will pay anything to get vehicles on the road.”