The Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA) has called for a change to immigration rules to allow the waste and recycling sector to recruit heavy-goods vehicle (HGV) drivers in the face of severe shortages.
The REA’s call follows major concerns over the reduced frequency or even suspension of food and garden waste collections by councils UK-wide. These include councils in Buckinghamshire, Essex, Kent, Reading, Doncaster, Cumbria, Milton Keynes, Hampshire, Bournemouth, South Ribble, Brighton and Hove, Derbyshire, Exeter, and Surrey.
The Department for Transport has already announced some measures intended to alleviate the crisis, including allowing drivers to take one test to drive both an articulated and rigid lorry to increase the availability of test slots, and temporarily relaxing drivers’ hours rules. However, with a current estimated shortfall of 100,000 HGV drivers in the UK, solutions that address the scale and immediacy of the problem are required, said the association.
Failure to collect and treat these resources means that the opportunities to produce renewable energy, biofertilisers and soil improvements are being wasted, the REA believes. This will, in turn, impact climate change and the government’s net-zero goals.
“The measures recently introduced by the government should be welcomed, and this will help train the next generation of HGV drivers,” said Jenny Grant, head of organics and natural capital at the REA.
“However, it is going to take time to see the effect of this change translate into increased driver numbers. Our industry, and others, needs solutions that meet both the scale and immediacy of the crisis we are facing.
“That is why HGV drivers must be recognised as an important shortage occupation with a two-year derogation to the points-based immigration rules for trained HGV drivers. This will help to alleviate the problem in the short- to medium-term and allow employers to recruit the number of drivers required to continue to effectively deliver their services and contribute to the government’s net-zero ambitions.
“This is not just a necessity for our sector, but a crucial change needed to protect supply chains across the economy – from waste collections to food supplies and retail. As we head towards Christmas, the impacts on our everyday life could deepen unless this situation is resolved.”