Councils appeal for drivers amid national shortage

Councils across England have appealed for qualified drivers to come forward as a national shortage becomes more acute and halts more recycling collections.

One of the Richmond vehicles currently bears the Urbaser signage for a contract with Tunbridge and Wells

Havant borough council in Hampshire, Tonbridge and Malling borough council in Kent and the Somerset Waste Partnership (SWP) all say they are looking to recruit more drivers.

On 9 June, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) trade association issued a statement saying the UK HGV driver shortage had hit “catastrophic proportions”, blaming Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic for the issue.

Tonbridge and Malling

A shortage in drivers has impacted recycling collections across the country in recent weeks

In Tonbridge and Malling collections are carried out by waste management company Urbaser, which is said to have been struggling with a shortage of drivers for the past few months (see letsrecycle.com story).

Urbaser suspended recycling collections across the borough for two weeks from 21 June.

Tonbridge and Malling has seen a large increase in the amount of waste produced by households during lockdown, with the volume of cardboard and other material collected up by an average of 30%.

This means trucks have filled up more quickly and have had to make more frequent trips to empty their loads, the council says, leading to delays in completing rounds.

Today (29 June), the council said in a statement: “Due to recent driver shortages, we have been forced to temporarily suspend recycling collections of green-lidded bins and green boxes. We expect full service to be resumed from Monday 12 July.

“The reason given by our contactor, Urbaser, is the national shortage of HGV drivers, which is affecting its ability to retain and recruit drivers. We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused and thank you for your patience. If you know qualified HGV drivers that are looking for work, please ask them to apply.”

Somerset

The SWP warned on 21 June that delays and disruption to waste collections across Somerset were likely to continue “for some time” (see letsrecycle.com story).

The SWP says recruiting drivers is particularly difficult in Somerset (picture: Somerset Waste Partnership)

Yesterday (28 June), the SWP asked residents to put their recycling and residual waste out by 6am at the latest until further notice.

This, the SWP, would allow crews to start early if needed, making life easier when the weather gets hot more and giving more options when planning on how to deal with special circumstances such as the driver shortage.

In a statement, the SWP said: “Having scope for early starts gives SWP and its collections contractor Suez more options when planning how to keep on top of collections and deal with any special circumstances.

“The national driver shortage and Covid-related heavier loads have seen crews working long hours and occasional weekends for much of this year. Recent weeks have seen delays to collections in some areas and SWP apologises for this.”

‘No quick fix’

The SWP warned there was “no quick fix” and some disruption to services was likely to continue “for some time”.

“The well-documented national LGV driver shortage has been worsened by Covid-19 which has delayed training and testing”

Somerset Waste Partnership

It reiterated its call for qualified large goods vehicle (LGV) drivers to consider vacancies available at locations across the county and said there were also loader roles to be filled.

The statement continued: “The well-documented national LGV driver shortage has been worsened by Covid-19 which has delayed training and testing.

“EU drivers leaving the UK has added to the pressures, as has the driver demand created by recent reopening of non-essential retail.

“The recruitment of drivers and collection crews is especially difficult in Somerset because it is home to many distribution centres.”

Havant

Meanwhile, Havant borough council and its contractor Norse South East apologised to residents on 18 June for the recent disruption to bin collections.

Norfolk council-owned Norse carries out collections on behalf of Havant borough council

Today, the council said crews were out over the weekend catching up on missed collections and had made “good progress”.

Local authority-owned Norse South East blamed the driver shortage for the disruption and said it would look to recruit more staff.

Justin Galliford, chief operating officer of Norse Commercial Services and chairman of the board of directors at Norse South East, said: “On behalf of Norse South East I would like to apologise to those affected, for the delay in the collection of their bins.

“We would like to reassure residents that we are working to resolve these issues and to improve performance.

“We have had staff shortages and there is a national shortage of qualified drivers which have had an impact on our ability to collect your bins.

“We’re going to be recruiting more drivers and training others so that we have back-ups in place to cover shifts.”

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