As the Prime Minister announced recently, the UK is trying to fight a shortage of lorry drivers by providing them with visas for the next twelve weeks for another five thousand of them. The past few weeks have been for many troublesome and provoked hysteria in British society. Empty shelves and of course most tragically the beloved McDonald’s milkshakes running out.
I may joke, but it’s serious. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the shortage of lorry drivers has risen by over forty thousand from sixty thousand before; and it’s having a very visible impact on our lives. Supermarket shelves are bare, and as we all know, the law of supply and demand dictates that the more we run out of things, the higher the prices will go.
It’s having a real effect as well, with the pandemic hitting employment hard, a lot of people’s purchasing power is being hit by this. Living hand to mouth seems like something that only happens far away or to a small number of people, but this shortage brings it closer to home. As of the 15th July, unemployment has been at 4.8%, and that 4.8% will be the people who really feel their purchasing power hit.
Many will be asking why this is happening. COVID-19 is, of course, a catalyst. With Britain locking down, many lorry drivers went home to their native countries and haven’t come back. Tests at the borders have had a big effect in slowing down a process- which anyone who’s ever taken the ferry to Calais will tell you- was already a slow process. This is just one of the economic tragedies that the pandemic has sprung upon us, many more are likely to follow in the coming months and years.
Then we’re also back to Brexit, which has made getting visas for drivers who largely came from the continent very difficult. Like COVID, Brexit has had an impact on the smooth passage over the borders, mainly down to the added bureaucracy implemented after the UK’s formal exit last year. What you make of that very much depends on what you thought of Brexit, and I’d hate to reignite the Brexit debates in the midst of all this.
With most lorry drivers taking upwards of eight weeks to train, it looks unlikely that the crisis is going to budge for a while. The government initiative to allow visas may prove to soften the blow, but that’s a short-term solution to a long-term problem. The average age of a lorry driver is fifty-five, so it’s important we start attracting younger people to the career, or else shortages could become a common theme for the current generation.
The Government has also increased maximum working hours to attract more drivers, but this has come under fire due to road safety concerns. They could try tax reductions and subsidies for haulage industries; however, the businesses are likely to again cut staff when the subsidies and tax reductions are reversed. It might be better to consider making it easier for lorry drivers to get visas until we have filled the demand once again, but that comes with the issue of angry Brexiteers, something Boris wants to desperately avoid and doesn’t solve the issue of an ageing workforce.
Evidently, the issues facing Britain with regards to the driver’s shortage are by no means simple to solve, and the government has a difficult task ahead. The only thing that is clear is that if the Government wants to win the next election and save the economy, they need to find some kind of solution, and fast.
Crises where every single person, rich or poor, are affected, are luckily rare, but reflective of the troubled waters we are in. With no obvious solutions, it would appear we are likely not to see the end of this one for a while, and that should worry everyone. On a lighter note, I have spoken to a McDonald’s employee who has assured me their milkshakes are back in stock, doubtless for something else to run out soon.
Written by Adam Caudle Research compiled by Steven Li