Welsh coach companies left short staffed as drivers switch to HGV
Coach companies across Wales are feeling the pinch on staffing levels as higher salaries being offered to HGV drivers are enticing their drivers away.
The high demand for lorry drivers as a consequence of Covid and Brexit is creating further knock-on effects and threatens to plunge the coach industry into crisis.
A range of businesses across the country have suffered supply shortages due to the lack of HGV drivers, and salaries are going up in a bid to attract more staff.
Coach companies and school bus services have started to suffer because of the shortage of coach drivers.
One Welsh company, Cymru Coaches, told ITV that they’re in a worst situation now than in the height of the pandemic.
Despite a recruitment campaign which is seeing many switching to become HGV drivers, the industry is still falling short by 76,000 drivers across the UK.
A backlog in training and taking driving tests also means there are very few new drivers coming into the field of work.
Boris Johnson will not rule out issuing more visas to overseas lorry drivers in order to tackle the current supply shortages, but is vague when asked whether immigration rules would be relaxed, saying the situation will be kept “under review”.
4,700 temporary visas are being offered to HGV drivers in order to help tackle supply chain problems, while vehicles continue to queue for fuel at petrol stations nationwide.
The government announced up to 300 fuel tanker drivers will be allowed to work in the UK immediately on a temporary basis up until March 2022.
Logistics experts say that the shortfall has not happened over night and that contributing factors include fewer young drivers entering the industry, and poor facilities and lack of safe overnight parking which make the industry unappealing.
The impact of Brexit, and delays in processing HGV tests due to the pandemic are also recognised factors in the shortfall.
Mark Drakeford said the shortages are a problem of the Conservative UK Government’s own making because “they took us out of the European Union.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson has said, “Driver training, testing and vocational licensing is a non-devolved matter, however we are in discussion with the DVLA and DVSA to determine what can be done to address the issue of bus and HGV driver shortages.
“Together with the Department for Work and Pensions and bus industry trade associations, we are looking at ways of supporting the industry with pilot initiatives around driver recruitment and staff retention.
“We are also working on a bus driver recruitment campaign as well as using our ReACT back to work programme to bring people into the sector.”
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