Low pay, ‘hellhole’ service stations and no toilets ‘behind lorry driver shortage’
A national shortage of lorry drivers leaving food suppliers unable to get produce to supermarkets is down to poor pay, theft and a lack of toilets on the road. That is according to HGV drivers who have told i of the “hellholes” in which they routinely stay overnight, criminals who ransack the lorries and filling stations that refuse them access to toilets. Attempts by the Road Haulage Association (RHA) to persuade the Government to add HGV drivers to the UK’s skilled worker occupation list mask the underlying issues causing British workers to quit and will do nothing to improve standards or solve the problem in the long term, they believe.
The RHA puts the driver shortage at around 70,000, and supermarkets and restaurants have been feeling the effects as suppliers struggle to secure drivers to transport their produce it spoils. Tesco has told ministers nearly 50 tonnes of fresh food intended for its stores is being thrown every week because of the shortage. Availability of some products has already been affected and prices of some goods are expected to rise.
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Philip Esson, 53, has been driving HGVs for nearly 30 years and runs his own haulage firm. While Brexit has led to an exodus of foreign workers, including drivers, the shortage has been exacerbated by increasing numbers of British drivers choosing to leave over poor pay and working conditions, he said. “There are a lot of British drivers who have said ‘to hell with this’ and walked over wages…There are jobs being advertised for GBP9 an hour – no one’s going to work for that,” said Mr Esson, who lives near Aberdeen.
Another driver, who has switched professions because of the money, said: “While pay remains so low for these professional drivers they will never return…I was one of these drivers.” He added: “I am a social worker now.”
Several of Mr Esson’s friends have quit their jobs – and even left Britain – because they were so fed up. “I know six guys who have just given up.
Four have moved over to Canada or America [where there is] better money, better conditions, better parking.” Theft is also an issue for drivers, who can wake up to find their diesel, or even their containers, has been stolen. And the inability to ensure basic needs such as being able to go to the toilet or take a shower will be met is also leading drivers to quit.
“Last year was an absolute nightmare,” Mr Esson said. “Filling stations would say, ‘You can’t use the toilets because of Covid’. You’d say, ‘I really need to go’ and they’d say, ‘They’re closed, end of story’.”
Speaking of the “hellholes” where many drivers are forced to park for the night, Mr Esson said of the facilities: “Some of the places, you wouldn’t put your dog in.”
- ^ leaving food suppliers unable to get produce to supermarkets (inews.co.uk)
- ^ nearly 50 tonnes of fresh food intended for its stores is being thrown every week (inews.co.uk)
- ^ prices of some goods are expected to rise (inews.co.uk)
- ^ Brexit has led to an exodus of foreign workers (www.bloomberg.com)
- ^ Messaging app where you can criticise your boss takes off in South Korea’s top-down work culture (inews.co.uk)
- ^ @kt_grant (twitter.com)
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