REA encouraged by reports that Government is to relax immigration rules for HGV drivers, but says a few thousand visas would fall well short of what is needed;
REA has repeatedly called for HGV drivers to be recognised as an important shortage occupation to make up for the 100,000 estimated shortfall across the economy;
Food and garden waste collection frequency reduced or suspended entirely in some local authorities due to driver shortage.
The Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA) have welcomed reports that the Prime Minister has decided to relax immigration rules for HGV drivers in order to ease widespread recruitment shortages in the waste and recycling sector. However, the Association has warned that if the number of visas are restricted to only a few thousand, it will make little impact in easing the current crisis.
The effect of the driver shortage on the waste and recycling sector can be seen in the recent announcements by a number of local authorities to reduce the frequency of, or suspend entirely, the collection of domestic food and garden waste, and commercial food waste collections.
The Department for Transport has already announced some measures intended to alleviate the crisis, including allowing drivers to take one test to drive both an articulated and rigid lorry to increase the availability of test slots, and temporarily relaxing drivers’ hours rules. Despite this, the REA’s members are still reporting difficulty in accessing tests until early next year.
However, with there being an estimated current shortfall of 100,000 HGV drivers across the UK economy, solutions that address the scale and immediacy of the problem are required.
There is also concern that the waste and recycling sector would be unable to compete with the higher wages on offer in other sectors. It is feared that the issues regarding food and garden waste collections could continue, and potentially spread to general waste.
Jenny Grant, Head of Head of Organics and Natural Capital at the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA), said:
“The relaxation of immigration rules for HGV drivers to help ease the widespread recruitment shortages for drivers in the waste and recycling sector would be a step in the right direction, and the REA first called for changes when concerns were raised earlier in the summer.
“However if reports are to be believed, and just a few thousand new visas will be offered, it will fall far short of what is needed to meet the scale of the immediate crisis. There is an estimated shortfall of 100,000 drivers across the UK economy so the reality is that a few extra thousand would be a drop in the ocean.
“I am also concerned that, if there is a scramble between sectors to secure additional drivers from this small pool, it is inevitable that the local authorities responsible for waste collections will be unable to compete with retail and other sectors who can offer far higher wages. This would mean that the issues with food and garden waste collections will continue, and potentially even spread to other waste collections.
“It is vital that the whole economy, from waste collections to supply chains, are able to deliver services as normal. The Government must heed our calls for a two-year derogation to the points-based immigration rules for trained HGV drivers or we will only see these problems grow.”
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Notes to editors
About the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA):
The Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (known as the REA) is the UK’s largest trade association for renewable energy and clean technologies with around 550 members operating across heat, transport, power and the Circular Economy. The REA is a not-for-profit organisation representing fourteen sectors, ranging from biogas and renewable fuels to solar and electric vehicle charging. Membership ranges from major multinationals to sole traders.
For more information, visit: www.r-e-a.net