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Lorry drivers offered sign-on bonuses worth thousands amid shortage

Written by on 27/07/2021

Lorry drivers are being offered thousands of pounds to sign on to work for major retailers amid a widespread shortage – but it could leave small haulage operators struggling.

Tesco, Britain’s biggest supermarket chain, has been offering in recent weeks to pay £1,000 to HGV drivers joining before 30 September – an offer first reported by the BBC.

Sky News understands that other retailers are also offering similar or higher bonuses.

A delivery lorry outside a Tesco Express store in central London. Pressure is mounting on the Government to bring forward the date at which people who are double vaccinated against coronavirus can avoid self-isolation as emergency measures to protect food supplies were launched on Thursday. Picture date: Friday July 23, 2021.
Image: Tesco is offering to pay a £1,000 bonus

But this is thought to be causing problems for smaller operators that make up the majority of the haulage industry as their workers are lured away by incentives they cannot afford to put on the table.

It comes as the overall shortage of drivers, estimated at 100,000, continues to cause disruption across the economy – blamed on problems related to both Brexit and the pandemic.

The driver shortage, together with the “pingdemic” or workers self-isolating across the economy has been blamed for gaps starting to appear on supermarket shelves.

A spokesman for the Road Haulage Association said: “Some of our members have told us that they’ve had to pay sweeteners to get drivers to work for them.

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“We’ve heard £1,000 before, but I wouldn’t say that’s right across the board.

“But drivers’ rates are certainly increasing in the sector as the vacancies grow.”

Empty shelves at Morrisons in BelleVale, Liverpool.
Image: Empty shelves have been seen in supermarkets

The RHA estimates that the shortage of drivers has risen from 60,000 to 100,000 this year partly due to 15,000 non-UK drivers going elsewhere as a result of Brexit.

It also points to a backlog of 30,000 HGV driver tests postponed during lockdowns as well as the impact of tax changes for self-employed workers, while the “pingdemic” is also now taking its toll.

The RHA is pressing the government to allow fully vaccinated drivers and other logistics staff ordered to stay at home to continue working if they produce daily negative results.

Ministers have so far resisted calls by the organisation to ease access to drivers from EU nations.

 Sky News

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