The road haulage industry should be given a two-year deadline to upgrade facilities for lorry drivers, with clean showers, healthy food and spaces for female drivers, or face a new tax, ministers have been told.
On Wednesday, a cross-party group of MPs called for the logistics industry to “get its house in order” by improving overnight facilities for drivers and providing new training routes to recruit more truckers from diverse backgrounds. It comes as the sector struggles with a lack of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers, leading to regular fuel shortages at petrol pumps and empty shelves in supermarkets.
Last year the Road Haulage Association, the industry trade body, estimated there was a shortfall of 100,000 HGV drivers due to the coronavirus crisis and Brexit. The shortage is now estimated to have decreased to about 65,000 drivers.
The Commons transport select committee said that if the changes are not made within two years, the most profitable parts of the sector should face a new tax.
Under the proposed supply chain levy, large supermarkets, oil companies and online service giants could be forced to pay towards the cost of new facilities for HGV drivers.
“We urge government to be brave and force the sector to get its house in order,” Huw Merriman, the Conservative chairman of the committee, said. “A supply chain levy has worked previously to incentivise reform.
“If the industry won’t deliver change, government should do so and send them the bill via increased taxes to those who produce and sell and make the most profits.”
The committee’s report, Road Freight Supply Chain, found that “a key reason drivers do not stay in the sector is the lack of high-quality rest facilities”.
The report called for the introduction of minimum standards for facilities, including security, clean showers and toilets, healthy food options, and services for female drivers.
Drivers quoted in the report raised concerns about “poor washing facilities” at overnight stop areas, including dirty and “vandalised” showers. The report said some official stay-over services were so bad that drivers prefer to park in laybys overnight – a practice called “fly-parking” which can lead to fines.
The committee said the industry must do more to encourage women and younger people into driving HGVs.
“Women make up as little as 1% of the workforce. The proportion of under-25s is under 3%,” Merriman said. “For too long, this lack of diversity has seen more drivers retiring than being recruited.
“We’ve been here before. In 2016, the transport committee called for action in the haulage sector but little changed. Lack of diversity is holding expansion in the workforce back.”
The committee also called on road haulage companies to pay for the special training needed to drive an HGV. Currently the cost is covered by the drivers.
Merriman added: “The long-term solution lies in moving more freight to rail and water. This will help decarbonise the sector, and make it more attractive to drivers who want to operate over shorter distances; drivers who want to see their families at the end of a hard day rather than facing antisocial and dangerous nights sleeping in their cabs. In the near-term, we need better conditions to make moving essential goods a sound career choice.”
The Road Haulage Association, which represents commercial road haulage companies and has more than 7,000 members, said it “broadly welcomed” the reportand that many recommendations were in line with its own requests for change. It added: “We appreciate the principles behind the supply chain levy, but we need assurance that this would not result in undue cost pressures.
“We’re concerned that the industry cannot make the necessary changes to avoid the levy in just two years when so many of those changes are outside the industry’s control.”