Colnbrook’s Steve Bowles calls on Prime Minister to address “chronic” shortage of truck drivers

Local haulier Steve Bowles took to 10 Downing Street last week to highlight a “chronic shortage” of truck drivers across the country.

From left: Lesley O’Brien - FreightLink Europe, Matt Allen – PF Whitehead, Richard Burnett – RHA Chief Executive, Peter Eason – ELB Partners, Steve Bowles – Roy Bowles Transport.

From left: Lesley O’Brien – FreightLink Europe, Matt Allen – PF Whitehead, Richard Burnett – RHA Chief Executive, Peter Eason – ELB Partners, Steve Bowles – Roy Bowles Transport.

Steve Bowles, director of Roy Bowles Transport based in Galleymead Road, joined four other campaigners from the Road Haulage Association (RHA) to deliver a petition to the Prime Minister last Thursday.

The RHA has highlighted an “unprecedented and critical” shortage of qualified truck drivers right across the country.

The RHA believes that current retirement levels and low levels of new entrants to the industry are creating a perfect storm.  With a current driver shortage of more than 45,000 drivers, and 35,000 more expected to retire within the next two years, it says the situation is deteriorating fast.

Its chief executive Richard Burnett said:

“Failing to address the chronic driver shortage threatens to stop the UK economy recovery in its tracks and it will be a missed opportunity for the Government in its drive to achieve full employment.”

With the cost of training to be a truck driver at around £3,000 the five have called on the prime minister and chancellor to sign off on a £150m HGV driver training fund in next month’s emergency budget.

Steve Bowles: "may not be like being on the cover of The Rolling Stone but its the trucking equivalent".

Steve Bowles: “may not be like being on the cover of The Rolling Stone but its the trucking equivalent”.

Steve Bowles, told Motor Transport he had just taken on a 72-year old driver such was the paucity of candidates:

“We have about 40 drivers and have been operating around 10% under our ideal headcount for some time.”

He added:

“The introduction of Driver CPC has meant we no longer see the casuals we previously relied on. If we got this fund we could look at doing more training with a partner to begin tackling this”.

Featured on this week’s cover of the publication, Mr Bowles – who has been campaigning relentlessly for better conditions for truck drivers – posted on Facebook: “[It] may not be like being on the cover of The Rolling Stone but its the trucking equivalent”.

Following an interview with the BBC two weeks ago, in Colnbrook, he called for an apprenticeship scheme to be set up:

“There are 45,000 vacancies across the UK.  35,000 drivers will retire this year and 8,000 will lose the hgv due to health issues. Only about 20,000 people have taken their HGV in the past year. The average age of an HGV driver is 57. With all that the situation is getting worse, we need some youngsters and others a bit older in the industry on some form of apprenticeship scheme so they earn as they learn.

“Tough nut to crack which ever way you look at it. For all of us.”

Drivers have highlighted the low pay, high cost of overnight parking, and lack of secure facilities – with increasing incidents of diesel theft causing truckies to have to act as unpaid security guards.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer will deliver his Budget to Parliament on Wednesday July 8 2015.  We wish Steve well in his campaign.

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