Irish hauliers need government support to recruit new HGV drivers into the logistics industry, before the country’s supply chain starts to break down, according to industry group FTA Ireland (FTAI).
According to Aidan Flynn, General Manager at FTAI, with the industry already suffering a shortage of suitably qualified HGV drivers, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has seen a high turnover of driving staff, that could have a devastating impact on the country’s economy if not addressed now: “While the freight distribution and logistics sector has kept the nation stocked during the pandemic, not all sectors which use HGV drivers have been operational,” he says, “and many have either returned to work in eastern Europe or have switched to jobs in other sectors. This is creating unsustainable recruitment problems for a sector on which all areas of our economy relies, and an ever-decreasing pool of workers means that gaps will soon start to appear in our supply chain.”
To address the problem, FTAI has written to the Road Safety Authority and the Department of Transport seeking interventions to reduce the pressure on commercial fleet operators. As Mr Flynn continues, there are many fully licenced drivers who could fill the gaps in the short term, but cannot do so because they do not have an in date Driver CPC card, which is required for drivers to work professionally:
“To ease the skills shortage, FTA is asking government to provide a temporary derogation to attract these drivers back into temporary employment and allow them drive for hire and reward while they are waiting to refresh their professional driver training qualification – the CPC. This would be great help to our members and industry where some employees have full licences, but they do not have an up to date driver card.
“Meanwhile, we have received reports that some of our members are having to wait over 50 weeks to complete the tests that would enable them to drive professionally. All drivers must undertake these tests to ensure safe and professional operations but they can be updated at the same time as driving. Without addressing the skills shortage, business costs are likely to rise, causing a significant hike in prices for haulage services. Regrettably, the net result of this will be significant cost increases for the consumer. Everything that can be done needs to be done now, to try and remove the barriers to entry for the haulage sector and encourage those that have full driving licences back into the industry, even temporarily to protect the nation’s supply chain.”