Councils Face Shortage Of Gritter Drivers Because They Can't Match Private HGV Pay
There will be widespread wintery weather across the country this week (Alamy)
Nearly two thirds of councils in England are worried they can't recruit enough HGV drivers to run their gritting lorries this winter, amid suggestions they can't compete with higher private sector pay in a sector blighted by workforce shortages.
According to new data in the Local Government Association’s annual weather resilience survey, almost two thirds of councils said they have found it, or expect to find it, difficult to recruit and train HGV drivers for “winter resilience activities” such as driving gritting lorries.
Government officials have said they expect local highways staff to have "sufficient contingency" operations in place to deal with any issues that may arise over the colder months, but industry figures have suggested that some authorities are struggling to keep hold of employees looking at better pay offers from private companies amid a wider HGV driver shortage.
Last year PoliticsHome reported that the government would grant a number of emergency visas for HGV drivers from overseas to help abate shortages in the run-up to Christmas 2021, but these were due to expire at the end of February this year.
According to the new LGA data, local authorities are now having to use agency workers or retraining and redeploying their existing staff in order to fill the gaps.
Overall, 35 councils answered questions about retaining HGV drivers, of whom 63 per cent told the LGA they had problems. Of the councils who then went on to answer questions about how they were trying to tackle these issues, more than four in five (86 per cent) said that they were retraining their own staff, while 55 per cent said they were bringing in agency staff.
A spokesperson for the LGA told PoliticsHome: “As this survey shows, councils along with many other organisations have had continued difficulties in recruiting new HGV drivers.
“As well as this, fast inflating HGV driver salaries in the private sector exacerbates issues in the public sector, with the rises creating a retention as well as a recruitment problem for councils and their contractors.
“To ensure gritting lorries can get to out treat roads and pavements this winter, councils have been retraining and redeploying existing staff as well as making use of short term agency workers.”
A level three cold weather alert for England issued by the UK Health Security Agency began at 6pm on Wednesday and is due to last until Monday morning, but could be further extended if the cold conditions continue.
Temperatures could drop well below zero overnight in the coming days, with Met Office weather warnings for snow and ice in place ahead of the weekend.
A spokesperson at the Department for Transport said: “We expect local highways authorities to have sufficient contingency plans in place to carry out their responsibilities of maintaining local roads over winter, and we continue to offer support by maintaining a national emergency salt reserve.
“To address HGV driver shortages, we have taken an unprecedented 33 measures, including making 11,000 training places available through our Skills Bootcamps.”
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