Thursday, 16 December 2021
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
41. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an update on steps being taken to alleviate the shortage of HGV drivers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [62136/21]
I am fully aware of the problems caused by the shortage of HGV drivers, particularly given the very important role that the road haulage sector has in our economy. The HGV driver shortage is not confined to Ireland; it has been a growing issue across Europe and globally for a number of years now. It is a multifaceted issue with a range of different contributing factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic, which has clearly had a significant impact on the labour market for many sectors.
My Department established the National Logistics and Supply ChainSkills Group in 2019, the key objective of which is to support the promotion of careers, skills development and sustainable employment in the logistics and supply chain sectors in Ireland. The Group includes haulage and logistics sector industry representatives, education and training providers and all of the relevant Government Departments and Agencies. In July, I asked the Group to examine the HGV driver shortage issue and make recommendations, with specific regard to actions that can be taken by Government and the industry. These recommendations are aimed at ameliorating the supply issue, without undermining the working conditions and health and safety of drivers or other road users. The Group is finalising its recommendations for submission to me in the coming days.
Much work is already underway in this space.
The promotion of education, training, careers and sustainable employment in the sector is crucial, along with skills development and career progression for existing workers. My Department has engaged with the Department of Social Protection (DSP), which has dedicated employer relations teams offering a range of supports and services to employers to fill vacancies including recruitment campaigns, specialised jobs fairs and through the online portal JobsIreland.ie. I have written to Education and Training Boards across Ireland to offer support for the many HGV driver training courses offered by the ETBs around the country.
Regarding driver testing in Ireland, in the 4 weeks prior to December 12th, an average of 154 tests for HGV drivers were carried out by RSA testers each week, with a pass rate of almost 73%. This means that 112 HGV drivers were qualified on average each week.
Regarding recruitment of drivers from abroad, I understand that the DSP organises events in the EU/EEA labour market for sectors where there are particularly acute labour shortages and that it will run a transport-focused recruitment event early in the new year. My Department will engage with industry to promote the event.
HGV drivers from outside the EU/EEA must have a valid employment permit and a visa, if coming from a visa required state as defined by the Department of Justice. Following engagement with my colleague Minister of State English at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the quota for employment permits for HGV drivers from outside the EU/EEA has been removed. These drivers must also exchange their HGV drivers licence for an Irish licence. Ireland has licence exchange agreements with several countries and the Road Safety Authority, which oversees these agreements, is engaging with a number of other countries with a view to progressing further licence exchange agreements.
The Programme for Government includes a commitment to publish a 10-year strategy for the haulage sector. The Government’s aim is to develop a strategy that will focus on generating efficiencies and improving standards, and helping the sector move to a low-carbon future. We remain mindful of the driver and skills shortage facing the sector, and a section of the Haulage Strategy will focus on this.
I will continue to proactively engage with the freight transport, distribution and logistics sectors and the Government is committed to continuing to support the industry. It is vitally important for education, industry, and government to work together to enhance the appeal of a career in road haulage and logistics, so that the sector can both attract and retain talent.