By the time you read this I will have met with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne and his Treasury officials.
The meeting followed our demands for Mr Osborne to sanction licence acquisition funding to help address the driver shortage.
But this meeting was only the start of a long journey. At the end of that journey there must be a clear and sustainable action plan, which will deliver a much better industry with a solid, well-motivated and sustainable workforce.
I went to the meeting with a clear mandate from, you, the RHA membership. Firstly you are telling me that despite the government playing down the severity and impact of the driver shortage, it is very real and your number one challenge, currently.
Secondly you are completely frustrated by the rebuffs and empty words that come out of Westminster whenever the subject of our road haulage and logistics industry pops up on the Government’s radar.
You want clear solutions and proper, investment in and recognition for, the industry that underpins the whole of the UK’s economy.
Investing in drivers, in terms of licence acquisition, is only the tip of the iceberg. What must be addressed are all the other elements that sit underneath the fact that we have an acute shortage of HGV drivers. These include: poor road infrastructure; a lack of facilities for drivers; a lack of awareness about the industry among young people and careers advisors in schools; barriers created by insurers; the poor press the industry often receives and overregulation. These factors combine to create the poor image the industry suffers from and the resulting problems we experience, attracting fresh blood and young talent into it.
You have also told me that a lack of an effective organisation to represent the careers and skills interests of the industry is an issue. There are many excellent recruitment initiatives being driven forward by you at a local level, and Abbey Logistics’ ‘Think Logistics’ campaign is a good example of one, which deserves industry wide support and help from government.
I presented all these views at the meeting and insisted that the government responds with genuine support and clear solutions.
I would also like to re-emphasis last month’s ‘Call to Action’. While my meeting at the Treasury was a great step in the right direction, and far more beneficial that 20 seminars discussing the problems we face, we know from our experience working with FairFuel UK that ministers will only really wake up the gravity of issues if they are being lobbied by the constituency MPs. What you need to do is to become a pain in the posterior as far as your local MPs are concerned. With a General Election only three months away, invite your MP to discuss where they stand on the issues that challenge you and ask them to convey your message, and the message of the people who rely on you for employment, to their colleagues in the corridors of power. If they can’t come to you go and knock on their doors.
The RHA is working on a road map of the MPs who serve your constituencies. This will help you and us to engage with them.
Keep a close watch on the weekly policy and campaign bulletin emails for more information on this and the progress we are making with government.