Government takes action to address the current HGV Driver Shortage

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Amid the growing evidence of emerging labour and skills shortages in the industry here and challenges in global supply chains, the Department of Transport established the National Logistics & Supply Chain Skills Group in 2019.  The key objectives of the Group are to support the promotion of careers, skills development and sustainable employment in the logistics and supply chain sectors in Ireland.

The Transport Department is currently formulating draft recommendations for consideration by the Skills Group in response to the Minister’s request to the Group to make recommendations to her urgently on actions to be taken to address the issue.

In tandem with this work, the Department is progressing other strands of work as follows at the moment:

  • Facilitating industry in recruiting drivers from overseas

To facilitate recruitment of drivers from the domestic labour market, Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP)

has dedicated employer relations teams offering a range of supports and services to employers to fill vacancies including recruitment campaigns, specialised jobs fairs etc and through the online portal JobsIreland.ie.

EU/EEA

DEASP manages the EURES (European Employment Services) Programme in Ireland, which facilitates cooperation between employment services in Member States and to accommodate the free movement of workers. DEASP organises recruitment events in the EU/EEA labour market for sectors where there are particularly acute labour shortages.

The Department has engaged with DEASP in relation to events for the transport and logistics sectors and these sectors will be featured in an online recruitment event being organised on 4th November for Spain.  The Freight Transport Association of Ireland will present at the event.  Further opportunities in the EU/EEA market will be considered with DEASP. Details of the event were circulated to all members of the Skills Group including the industry representative groups and DEASP asked industry reps to encourage their members to register for these events as employers.

Non-EU/EEA

Ireland recognises all other EU Member State driver licences. In order to work legally in Ireland, drivers from outside the EU/EEA must exchange their driver licences for an Irish licence and have a valid employment permit and visa.

The Department is currently drawing up a guidance note for the industry on the requirements that must be followed when recruiting a driver from non-EU/EEA countries.  This will be circulated to the industry when finalised.

Only drivers from countries with which Ireland has a licence exchange agreement can exchange their licences. These bilateral agreements require detailed comparison of the two licensing and testing regimes, so that both sides can be satisfied that the regimes are compatible. Road safety is the essential criterion, and agreement cannot be reached if the standards required to obtain a driving licence in the other jurisdiction are not compatible. The safety record of the other country is also considered.

Ireland exchanges Group 2 categories (truck and bus) with the following countries:

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) is currently examining the potential for a license exchange agreement with New Brunswick (Canada).  At the request of the Transport Minister the RSA has also initiated contact with the licensing authorities in the following countries on potential license exchange agreements.

  1. Moldova 
  2. North Macedonia
  3. Ukraine
  4. Argentina

The Minister recently met with the Argentinian Ambassador to Ireland and the Ambassador has agreed to provide whatever assistance is required in expediting consideration of a licence exchange agreement by the Argentinian authorities.

The Department is also following up through DFA diplomatic channels to encourage engagement by the relevant authorities in these jurisdictions with the process.

The HGV driver profession became eligible for work permits in 2017 and the current quota available is 320 (the quota is not yet exhausted with just 175 of the permits available taken up to date).  Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (DETE) review the list of eligible occupations twice annually and the Department has sought to have the quota increased or removed so that the availability of work permits does not become an impediment to recruitment efforts as we increase the number of countries with whom we have licence exchange agreements. The updated lists will be agreed before year end.

  • Improving availability and uptake of HGV Driving Tests

The RSA is working to clear the backlogs of driving tests. To compile a survey on the current situation, it recently contacted a sample of HGV drivers who didn’t avail of an invite to sit their test and the results are below:

In summary:
  • The vast majority of customers (47%) cited ‘not ready’ as their reason for not using their invitation and booking themselves in for a test.
  • The next highest reason was ‘Away / Didn’t see email’ at 15%, followed by Customer error / misunderstanding or having issues with portal – 12% each.  Learnings from this survey are being picked up and we are reviewing our messaging to ensure all is clear to customers.
  • 9% withdrew their application.
  • 3% could not get access to a vehicle and
  • 3% wanted a different test centre and there was no availability at the centre at the time.

Any customers who did not use their invite up to mid-August are being re-invited. In mid-August a new process was implemented whereby if a customer fails to use their booking invitation within 10 days, their application is ‘paused’ and they are sent a communication which advises them that they have been removed from RSA’s invitation queue and given a link that they can use to tell RSA when they are ready for a new invitation to be issued to them.

This should be effective in ensuring that those who are ready for their test will get an appointment without delay, thus delivering potential new entrants into the labour market more quickly.

  • Education/Training

The Minister has recently written to Education & Training Boards Ireland (ETB) the umbrella organisation for the various Education & Training boards regionally, to reiterate the Minister’s support for ETBs training programmes for drivers and to offer assistance in promotion of the offerings available to drive interest and uptake.

A new apprenticeship programme developed by the Freight Transport Association of Ireland and IT Sligo will start in January 2022. It is a 2-year, Level 6 course and is aimed at new entrants who want to develop a career in the industry.

Through the Skills Group the Department will examine options for providing financial support for training in the industry, if required.

While the Skills Group is working on means of attracting new entrants to the industry through the apprenticeship and traineeships, it is clear that retention will be an ongoing challenge.  At the request of the Minister the Department intends to commission research on pay and working conditions in the industry to better understand some of the underlying factors at play in the exits from the industry and the continuing challenges in recruitment.

The Minister is also committed to delivering the 10-year Strategy for the haulage industry as outlined in the Programme for Government.