Association warns MPs of crisis during National Lorry Week

RHA chief executive Richard Burnett has described the sector’s skills crisis as “unprecedented” and called on the government to reverse its controversial decision not to back an HGV Trailblazer apprenticeship.

Burnett was talking at a parliamentary reception held at the House of Commons last week (27 October) to mark National Lorry Week. The comment came after Labour MP for Stoke South and the chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Freight Transport Rob Flello praised road transport. “Without you this country would cease to function. You are at the centre of our economic prosperity,” he said.

Burnett warned that the industry’s ability to continue driving economic growth was in peril because of the average driver age of 53 and the sector facing a shortfall of up to 55,000 drivers.

“In the 32 years I’ve been in logistics I have never experienced anything like the challenge we face now,” said Burnett.

He attacked the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ (BIS) decision in July to refuse the industry’s bid for an HGV driver apprenticeship under the Trailblazer format. Burnett said this must now be reversed.

As hauliers across the country supported National Lorry Week by holding a series of events and open days, Burnett called on the government to make available £150m of funding to help hauliers “with jobs to fill” to put drivers through HGV training so that they can attain their vocational licences.

Burnett said that the sorts of margins most operated on within road haulage meant that funding licence acquisition on their own was not an option for the majority of smaller hauliers who remain the “lifeblood” of the industry.

“We need immediate help. 85% of the haulage market consists of SMEs. These businesses need support and help to drive the economy,” he said.