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Sun September 26 2021

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Bring in foreign drivers, says MPA

15 Sep Companies that haul heavy building materials want the government to relax immigration restrictions for lorry drivers.

The government has taken steps in recent weeks to help ease the shortage of HGV drivers but supply problems – in the construction industry and beyond – remain.

The Mineral Products Association (MPA), which represents suppliers of aggregates, concrete, cement and asphalt, is calling for a short-term relaxation of visa rules for foreign lorry drivers.

Last month MPA supported the government’s proposal to allow HGV drivers to take a single test to drive both ‘rigid’ and ‘articulated’ lorries, rather than having to pass a test in a rigid lorry first and then another for an articulated lorry. The proposal is seen by the MPA as a sensible measure to get through the testing backlog faster, provided that road safety is not compromised.

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However, MPA says that fast-tracking HGV tests is not enough to address the immediate crisis, even if delivered as planned,  let alone the longer-term underlying issues that have resulted in driver shortages estimated at 100,000 by the Road Haulage Association.

MPA director of public affairs Robert McIlveen said: “Our members have been telling us for some time that they are facing a real challenge recruiting and training enough drivers, with many being poached by other sectors once they become qualified. The deliveries that drivers make in our sector keep construction and other essential manufacturing industries going, and if not solved could come to a serious crunch point later this year.

“With the increase in demand for drivers accelerated by more home deliveries plus the reduction of drivers from EU member states, this announcement from government is a helpful tweak, but it is not a comprehensive solution. Much more must be done, including relaxing visa rules for drivers from the EU or beyond in the short term, and longer term supporting HGV driver training through the apprenticeship levy as well as increasing testing capacity.”

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