It has concerns that the waste and recycling sector could be unable to compete with the higher wages on offer in other sectors and fears that the issues regarding food and garden waste collections could continue, and potentially spread to general waste.
The warnings come from the organics division of the REA trade body in the face of concerns over cuts to green waste and food waste collections for local authorities because of driver shortages.
While encouraged by the partial relax of immigration rules for HGV drivers, the organics division says a few thousand visas would “fall well short of what is needed”.
REA remarks that it has repeatedly called for HGV drivers to be recognised as an important shortage occupation to make up for the 100,000 estimated shortfall across the economy.
It is inevitable that the local authorities… will be unable to compete with retail and other sectors who can offer far higher wages – Jenny Grant, Organics division, REA
The Association says that the effect of the driver shortage on the waste and recycling sector can be seen in the recent announcements by “a number of local authorities to reduce the frequency of, or suspend entirely, the collection of domestic food and garden waste, and commercial food waste collections.”
The REA says that its members are still reporting difficulty in accessing tests until early next year even though the Department for Transport has already announced some measures intended to alleviate the crisis, including allowing drivers to take one test to drive both an articulated and rigid lorry to increase the availability of test slots, and temporarily relaxing drivers’ hours rules. Despite this, the REA’s members are still reporting difficulty in accessing tests until early next year.
Jenny Grant, head of organics and natural capital at the REA (the association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology), said: “The relaxation of immigration rules for HGV drivers to help ease the widespread recruitment shortages for drivers in the waste and recycling sector would be a step in the right direction, and the REA first called for changes when concerns were raised earlier in the summer.
“However if reports are to be believed, and just a few thousand new visas will be offered, it will fall far short of what is needed to meet the scale of the immediate crisis. There is an estimated shortfall of 100,000 drivers across the UK economy so the reality is that a few extra thousand would be a drop in the ocean.”
Ms Grant continued: “I am also concerned that, if there is a scramble between sectors to secure additional drivers from this small pool, it is inevitable that the local authorities responsible for waste collections will be unable to compete with retail and other sectors who can offer far higher wages. This would mean that the issues with food and garden waste collections will continue, and potentially even spread to other waste collections.
“It is vital that the whole economy, from waste collections to supply chains, are able to deliver services as normal. The Government must heed our calls for a two-year derogation to the points-based immigration rules for trained HGV drivers or we will only see these problems grow.”