| 20 May 2024, Monday |

Lorry driver shortage: Temporary visa scheme to run until Christmas Eve

A temporary visa scheme to make it easier for foreign lorry drivers to work in the UK is set to run for three months, ending on Christmas eve.

It is understood about 5,000 visas may be issued, with more details about the scheme set to be revealed on Sunday.

A shortage of drivers has disrupted fuel deliveries, with some petrol stations closing, and queues forming.

The government has said there is no fuel shortage at refineries, and urged people not to panic buy.

The president of the AA said panic-buying rather than supply chain issues was driving the shortage of fuel at some petrol stations.

Edmund King added that the problem should pass in a matter of days if drivers only fill up when they need it, adding “there is plenty of fuel at source”.

MPs and police forces have called on drivers to be “sensible”, to consider filling up another time, and to avoid stockpiling fuel in jerry cans.

One petrol station boss from Ferndale, in Rhondda Cynon Taf, appealed for calm amid ongoing high demand for fuel on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the continued shortage of hauliers threatens more disruption to deliveries of petrol, food and other goods.

The Road Haulage Association estimates that the UK is short of about 100,000 HGV drivers – with existing shortages made worse by a number of factors, including the pandemic and Brexit.

The foreign drivers eligible for visas will not be limited to the EU, but the expectation is most of the drivers will be from Europe.

A raft of longer-term measures. including training up more drivers and addressing the backlog of driving tests, are also to be introduced by ministers.

Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood welcomed the introduction of the temporary visa but said this would not help overnight.

As well as training more domestic drivers and speeding-up testing, Mr Ellwood said hundreds of Afghan refugees could be trained to fill vacancies.