The UK is looking for drivers at all costs

LONDON (awp/dpa) – In the parking lot of his school, in front of the transporter truck where he has just passed his exams, Alberto Almeida holds his diploma as a British truck driver with a slight smile.

“Come on, be happy, you don’t have to give us any more lessons,” joked his instructor, taking a picture of the 49-year-old electrician who signed up during confinement, looking for a Plan B for his career.

Alberto’s smile widened: “No, now it is up to others to pay me …”.

As shortages increase in the UK, truck drivers have become “real rock stars”, said Lawrence Bolton, young principal at the National Driving Center school in a popular south London suburb.

Its switchboard has been torn since the carrier made headlines: a worldwide driver shortage has been intensified in the United Kingdom by Brexit, which prevents the return of Eastern European drivers who crossed the region. country still a year ago.

The shortage affects supermarkets, where some fresh produce shelves are regularly emptied, as well as milkshakes from McDonald’s or beers in pubs.

Since late September, service stations have struggled to stock up on gasoline in the absence of drivers capable of operating the tank, a phenomenon exacerbated by the purchase of worried motorists and which should continue in the coming weeks, according to professionals in the sector. has been warned.

plane pilot

According to the Road Transport Association (RHA), there is a shortage of one lakh drivers in the country. Supermarket brands like Tesco are adorned with invitations to join their team of truck drivers, some companies offer to pay for training and the government is taking steps to improve the situation.

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Drivers can now drive longer, with license holders not working in the sector having received a letter urging them to return and, most importantly, Britain to deal with labor shortages ahead of Christmas. 10,500 interim work visas for

In NDC parking lots, there are doubts over some measures, such as easing regulations that allow drivers to be directly tested for driving the heaviest vehicles, without having to go through more modest trucks.

“Do you see yourself going by a car like a monster?” Mr Bolton marvels, pointing at a massive 10 ton, while one of his trainers, Andrew, points out that road safety may be at a loss.

On the other hand, they welcome the renewed interest shown in the profession, which attracts new profiles: “There have been five or six aircraft pilots this year who are afraid of being redundant with the drop in air traffic”. , remembers Mr. bolt on.

Andrew himself, a former truck driver, says he shares his experience of a “difficult and lonely life” on the road with his students. “We stay in his cabin six days a week,” he explains, far away from his family.

controversial visa

When he was still working as a driver, “wages weren’t very bad 15 or 20 years ago, but they weren’t with inflation and other industries,” he describes.

Union platform Unite also criticizes the government for not “improving the quality of life in parking and comfort areas”, where drivers often do not get showers or toilets, despite higher prices than on the continent.

The visas, urgently granted by the government in late September to bring back drivers who accept these salaries, are far from unanimous, even though some volunteers are pushing for the moment to cross the channel again.

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Union platform Unite denounced “government support for a broken system that exploits drivers” in a statement.

Furthermore, Alberto Almeida, the license in his pocket, does not intend to hit the road immediately, while his activity as an electrician earns him more than a job as a driver.

“If I was offered good working conditions, yes, I would go, but I am not,” he says. “Brexit has just exposed the problem: nobody wants to be on the road.”

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