LONDON – Britain has an impending truck shortage.
Despite the need for heavy equipment to be flown to Britain, many drivers simply don’t want to move the goods for them, the U.K. Transport Department said Tuesday. So it has decided to make them eligible for easier U.K. work visas — even if they are truck drivers.
The U.K. announced that it will be extending visas to foreign truck drivers traveling here for one year at a time, to help ease the a crisis of supply for the British economy, particularly in the rural economy.
“The influx of new migrant labor is a key ingredient in the success of the U.K. economy,” the transportation secretary, Chris Grayling, said in a statement. “I’m pleased we’re able to provide these visa extensions to help keep the country moving, while maintaining the high quality standards we expect.”
So far, the government has offered 33,000 one-year work visas for truck drivers in an effort to tackle the problem of a national shortage, according to an Associated Press count, provided by the Britain’s Department for Transport. Those visas, awarded in batches of 1,000 each, must be renewed every year.
Those who pass English language and criminal background checks can apply to renew visas for a year at a time, which comes with a visa fee. The latest extension does not include a fee.
But it still has not solved the problem of a shortage of truck drivers. The British Trucking Association has estimated the country needs as many as 2,000 more drivers.
That is because some truck drivers simply do not want to travel the long distances to collect goods from factories in the north of England that build the goods that Britons buy at home, in trucks that can only cruise the length of the U.K.
To fill the gap, companies can fly in workers to restock with British goods, but that has created other problems. Tarmac was damaged after truckers used it as a parking lot after a rough trip.
So why do the trucks end up returning to land with damaged shipping containers, filled with raw goods being shipped to customers?
Some truck drivers simply don’t want to spend the time to drive the goods through all the logistics, planning and other work they will need to do to bring them to stores and shoppers. And some drivers simply won’t want to take the risk of being held up by British customs officers at the border, or have the questions they must answer for a visa.
Government officials said that the nation was experiencing the worst truck driver shortage in years, and that the existing one-year work visas would take care of demand for experienced drivers in Britain over the next few years. The shortest one-year visa requires just two weeks of work, government officials said.
The permits will be offered to immigrants in transportation, logistics and warehouse businesses.
Truck drivers and employers in these sectors can access the visa on a voluntary basis.