Unite, the UK’s leading union, has launched a radical manifesto to tackle the chronic driver shortage affecting the UK’s lorry driving sector.

Ministerial roundtable

The manifesto has been drawn up to coincide with a ministerial roundtable to be held tomorrow (Wednesday 16 June) of the key players in the industry, which has been organised by junior transport minister Baroness Vere to debate the problems afflicting the sector.

It is estimated that the profession is short of 76,000 drivers out of an existing workforce of 320,000. Unite’s members report the widening shortage of drivers in workplaces throughout the UK.

Key points

The Unite drivers’ manifesto includes seven key points to make the industry a better place to work and more attractive to new entrants. The union has identified low pay as the key issue, with drivers being underpaid for years, along with outsourcing, an unhealthy reliance on agency drivers and bogus self-employment being key factors in suppressing wages. 

Unite is calling for the establishment of a national council to set industry standards and set pay rates to tackle the problem and drive rogue employers out of the sector.

Increased diversity

Equally, Unite is increasingly aware that far more work needs to be done to increase diversity in the industry, which is overwhelmingly white, male, middle aged or older. By contrast, the similar profession of bus driving has far higher numbers of women and BAEM members. Unite is calling for the government to undertake detailed research about what non-traditional groups think of the lorry-driving industry and the perceived barriers to joining it. There also needs to be an effort to reduce the average age of drivers.

Additionally, Unite’s manifesto calls for reforms to driving and working time regulations, better provision of parking and rest facilities and proper access to toilets.

Unite firmly rejects any suggestion that the answer to the shortage is for the driving time regulations to be relaxed in order to allow drivers’ to work for longer, as this will increase fatigue and will lead to an increase in accidents and lead to more drivers leaving the industry.

Radical action

Unite national officer Adrian Jones said: “The government must take radical action to ensure that the widening shortage of drivers doesn’t develop into a full blown crisis which harms our economic recovery.

“It is increasingly apparent that an industry based on low pay, long hours and the poor treatment of workers is not attractive to large numbers of new entrants.

“The industry needs to take a long hard look at itself and accept that trying to constantly force drivers to work longer is both dangerous and not a long-term solution to the crisis.

“One thing is certain, doing nothing is simply not an option.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.

For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.

Email: barc[email protected]

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.