Overseas interest in UK truck jobs keenest among those not qualified

Selina Johansson

Overseas interest in UK truck-driving jobs is keenest in countries whose drivers’ qualifications are not recognised in Britain, according to figures that reinforce doubts over the practicality of the government’s plan to tackle the country’s supply chain crisis by issuing short-term visas.

The number of overseas jobseekers clicking on ads for UK-based HGV drivers trebled in the days after the government announced it would loosen migration restrictions, according to Indeed, the online job site — but the bulk of the interest came from outside the EU. Inquiries from non-EU jobseekers rose sixfold to account for 6.5 per cent of clicks on each job posting by the end of September — double the number of inquiries from EU candidates, Indeed said.

Indeed did not release figures for domestic interest in HGV ads.

“All eyes have turned to our European neighbours to see if the offer of 5,000 temporary visas will tempt EU drivers to return to the UK for work . . . we might be looking in the wrong direction,” said Jack Kennedy, economist at Indeed. He added that the UK’s offer could be unappealing in EU countries where demand for drivers had risen even faster, pushing up wages.

The figures will reinforce fears among UK businesses that the new visa scheme will make little difference to the recruitment crisis in the haulage sector.

Ministers have said that 300 fuel tanker drivers would be able to come to the UK immediately to ease the situation at petrol forecourts, which remains critical despite the deployment of hundreds of military personnel on Monday to help with deliveries.

The Petrol Retailers Association, which represents the independent retailers that make up about two-thirds of the UK’s 8,000 petrol stations, said on Monday that while the national situation had improved, supply remained “challenging” in London and the South-East.

There, a fifth of its members’ petrol stations were still dry, and 18 per cent had only one grade of fuel. In the rest of the country, just 8 per cent of forecourts were dry on Monday morning.

The visa scheme will permit a further 4,700 haulage drivers to come to work in the food supply chain, arriving between late October and the start of December, and leaving by the end of February.

But the government has confirmed that drivers entering on the three-month visas would need a licence issued by an EU member, an EEA state or Switzerland.

Indeed’s figures showed the strongest interest was from countries such as India, South Africa and Nigeria, whose drivers could not take a job in the UK without lengthy retraining. Kieran Smith, chief executive of recruitment agency Driver Require, said his firm was turning away inquiries from drivers whose qualifications were not recognised.

Sally Gilson, policy manager at the Road Haulage Association, said it had taken some years for Ireland to set up a new visa scheme to recognise and bring in South African drivers.

But qualifications were not the only practical obstacle to using the new scheme, she added. Employers would be required to find drivers suitable short-term accommodation, which could be both difficult to organise and expensive. “I can’t see it being viable for smaller businesses,” she said.

Employers will also be able to source drivers only through one of four contracted operators — chosen because they are already approved to bring in seasonal farm workers, but with limited experience in the haulage sector.

Additional reporting by Tom Wilson

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