The BBC has spent the past few months telling us that the shortages in supermarkets are due to Brexit. We are being told that if we could import thousands of lorry drivers from the EU there would be no shortages. What is the truth?
It is not just the UK that is suffering shortages of lorry Drivers:
There is obviously no large reserve of lorry drivers in the EU who could immediately take up jobs in the UK.
The shortfall of truck drivers in the UK in 2020 was estimated at 60,000-76,000. Most of the shortfall - 35,000 to 50,000 of it - was due to low wages, poor conditions, a failure to train staff and a lack of HGV testing due to COVID.
Another factor that reduced the supply of drivers was a change in the regulations that had allowed employers to label staff as "self employed" and so avoid tax and other responsibilities. In April 2021 new IR35 tax regulations were imposed on hauliers which resulted in 5000 to 10000 drivers leaving the profession.
However, despite most of the problem of driver shortages being due to other factors, the media seized on the relatively small loss of foreign drivers as the problem. The issue of foreign drivers is complex. In 2017, a year after the EU Referendum, there was an all time high of 45,000 EU drivers in the UK, despite the Referendum. The large numbers of EU drivers working in the UK haulage industry suggests that UK employers were exploiting workers from poorer parts of the EU to keep British wage rates low and working conditions poor. In June 2020 63% of EU drivers were still working here but 17000 had returned home, probably desiring to be near loved ones because of COVID. Even if the UK were still in the EU many drivers would have gone home to their families because of COVID and stayed away because of EU truck driver shortages and the resulting rise in pay in the EU.
This all demonstrates that using large numbers of freely mobile foreign workers is an unstable basis for the haulage industry and that the industry should not have relied on getting workers from abroad rather than training and nurturing British drivers.
The other point that this "delivery crisis" demonstrates is that the BBC, our National Broadcaster, is omitting important news. Even the BBC Reality Check on the driver shortages failed to give proper coverage to the fact that there is a pan European shortage of drivers and pushed the incorrect suggestion that Brexit was to blame for the shortages. The BBC has also failed to mention that there is a global supply chain crisis. The staff at BBC News and BBC Reality Check are violating their contracts by deliberately failing to give balanced and fair coverage for political reasons and should be dismissed.
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