LONDON (Reuters) - Britain announced plans on Tuesday to attract more truck drivers and simplify training in a bid to address a chronic shortage in the haulage industry which companies have warned could damage supply chains and lead to some food shortages.
The government said it would consult on proposals to streamline the application process for drivers seeking heavy goods vehicle (HGV) licences, increase the number of tests, and help improve working conditions and cut the cost of training.
"The driver shortage is well documented and its impacts on the wider economy are becoming more evident," government ministers wrote in an open letter to the industry.
Earlier this month, the government relaxed rules on the hours drivers could work in a bid to cope with the problem. It came after food and logistics groups warned that a shortage of more than 100,000 drivers could lead to gaps on supermarket shelves.
The COVID-19 pandemic, which prompted many foreign workers to return home during lockdown, and new immigration controls after Brexit has led to staff shortages in logistics and other sectors such as construction and hospitality.
The government said it needed to attract British drivers, rather than relying on a workforce from the European Union.
"I understand the challenges faced by drivers and operators right now and while longer-term solutions must be led first and foremost by industry leaders, today we are saying this government is here to help," transport minister Grant Shapps said.
"This set of measures will kickstart that help, easing pressure on the sector as we work together to attract new drivers, improve conditions and ensure the industry’s future is a prosperous one."
(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by William James)