29 September 2021
The National Federation of Builders (NFB) has welcomed the Government’s announcement to issue temporary visas for foreign HGV drivers for 3 months but warned it is nowhere near enough to tackle the current shortages and urging Ministers to go further.
Product and material prices in construction have sky-rocketed for NFB members and the industry alike, with the materials price index running at a 20% increase in July 2021 based on the year before.
While the reasons for that inflation are multi-faceted, a contributing factor is the shortages in HGV drivers, reducing supply and driving up the costs of transport. In response to the worsening situation, which has culminated in panic-buying of fuel over the weekend, the Government has announced it will issue up to 5,000 short-term HGV visas until Christmas eve.
However, trade associations in other sectors have warned that this is nowhere near enough to meet demand. The British Retail Consortium has said that the supermarket sector requires at least 15,000 drivers and the Road Hauliers Association (RHA) stated that the current shortage of people stands at around 100,000.
Commenting, the Head of Policy at the National Federation of Builders, James Butcher said:
“The Government has long championed the benefits that an independent immigration system can bring. Now is the time to realise that flexibility and react to labour market needs by issuing many more short-term visas for the drivers we need. The announcement of just 5,000 visas will sadly go nowhere near tackling our current woes and will continue to impact the construction sector in terms of both availability and prices of materials.”
“To solve the shortages in the long term, the Government must also work collaboratively with the hauliers to ensure that the barriers to entry into the domestic industry are removed. It must also help to incentivise schemes such as upfront funding of training in return for contractual commitment of service which could be rolled out on a national basis and co-ordinated by a national strategy”.