Norfolk hauliers sceptical of government visa plan

There are serious issues facing the road haulage business over the coming months.Picture Getty Image

The Road Haulage Association estimates the UK is short of around 100,000 HGV drivers - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Norfolk haulage companies have responded with scepticism to the government’s plans to issue temporary visas to 5,000 fuel tanker and food lorry drivers from abroad. 

Paul Arthurton of Paul Arthurton Haulage, based near Attleborough, said: “It’s like everything - it’s about the quality. 

“You have to do license checks... All our drivers’ licenses are checked monthly.

A haulage lorry

Mr Arthurton said the quality of the driver, not just the quantity, was important. - Credit: Getty Images

“You can’t just have some random person coming in from abroad that you have no history of, and then setting them loose with a load that can be worth up to a quarter of a million pounds, a lorry that is worth £120,000, and trailer that’s worth £20,000 as well. 

“Obviously, I get the sense behind what they’re trying to do, but you can’t just let random people loose with your lorries.”

Mr Arthurton said the supply chain issues were not solely caused by a shortage of drivers, and that the problem was multi-layered.

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He added that more understanding was needed from consumers, and that societal expectations of constantly-stocked shelves needed to change. 

Empty food shelves in Sainsbury's store in Bangor, Co Down. Boris Johnson has admitted there are "te

Mr Arthurton said societal expectations of constantly stocked shelves through all seasons of the year needed to change. - Credit: PA

“Society now seems to expect oranges on the shelf every day, bananas on the shelf every day. 

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“But if we’ve also got food waste - we report 20% food waste now - are we saying then that 20% of lorries on the roads today are going to be delivering food that will be in the bin by Wednesday?

“How stupid is that? Why are we bringing people to drive to deliver stuff that’s actually going to be thrown in the bin, which in itself will create more need for lorries, because we’ll need waste lorries?

“Maybe this is where society starts to question: I want that, but do I need it?”

Roger Hastings, who has worked in haulage for 40 years from his base in Rackheath, near Norwich, said of the government’s plan: “Why would people want to come here for three or four months? It’s not really worth the hassle, is it?”

Mr Hastings said the industry was struggling to bring younger workers in, and suffered from low morale.

“Most of the drivers I talk to aren’t particularly impressed with the job at all, so how you get young people to come into it when the older people aren’t very happy, I don’t know,” he said.

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