EU hauliers 'vote with their feet' as only 27 fuel tanker drivers apply for emergency visa scheme

A fuel tanker makes a delivery in London.A fuel tanker makes a delivery in London.
A fuel tanker makes a delivery in London.

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Just 27 fuel tanker drivers from the EU have applied to work in Britain under the Government’s emergency scheme to tackle the petrol crisis, it has been confirmed.

The figure was initially reported by The Times newspaper and this morning the Department for Transport confirmed 127 visas had been issued so far - 27 for fuel tanker drivers and 100 for food hauliers. The Government had announced last week that 300 temporary vias would be issued immediately to fuel drivers with some 4,700 visas intended for foreign food haulage drivers being extended by two months.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that supply chain problems are caused “very largely by the strength of the economic recovery”.

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The Prime Minister told BBC Breakfast: “What we said to the road haulage industry was: ‘Fine, give us the names of the drivers that you want to bring in and we will sort out the visas, you’ve got another 5,000 visas.’

“They only produced 127 names so far. What that shows is the global shortage.”

Mr Johnson added: “The supply chain problem is caused very largely by the strength of the economic recovery.

“What you will see is brilliant logistic experts in our supermarket chains, in our food processing industry, getting to grips with it, finding the staff that they need. We will help them in any way that we can. But the shortage is global.”

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The Prime Minister told the BBC: “What you can’t do is go back to the old, failed model where you mainline low-wage, low-skilled labour – very often very hard-working, brave, wonderful people – who come in, working in conditions that frankly are pretty tough, and we shouldn’t be going back to that.”

That had led to a situation where there was not investment in the industry and “people had to urinate in bushes” because of the lack of facilities for drivers, he said.

Mr Johnson has insisted Christmas would be better than last year’s coronavirus-blighted festive season, despite warnings about supply chain problems.

However he has repeatedly refused to rule out shortages in the wider economy in the run-up to Christmas.

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The Road Haulage Association (RHA) disagreed with Mr Johnson’s comments over the Government asking for names of European lorry drivers they want to work in the UK.

Rod McKenzie, managing director of policy and public affairs at the RHA, said: “There isn’t a database of lorry drivers with names attached to them and want to work in Britain that British lorry firms can tap into and say: ‘We’ll have that one, that one, that one or that one.’ It doesn’t work like that, it doesn’t exist.

"The only way it works is the Government advertises that short-term visas are available, Europeans think about it, decide whether they want to or don’t want to, and act accordingly. And, clearly, only 127 to date have acted accordingly.”

Mr McKenzie added: “Why would you give up a well-paid job in Europe, to come and drive a truck in Britain for a very short period of time when you have to get a six-month let on a flat and go through all the hassle, initially to be chucked out on Christmas Eve, but now, we’re told, for a bit later?

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“It is not an attractive offer and, effectively, what Europeans have done is kind of vote with their feet on that.”

The Prime Minister’s comments came as average petrol prices rose to their highest prices since 2013 last week.

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