The national shortage of lorry drivers has led Tesco to offer recruits a £1,000 joining bonus.

The bonus has been publicised via a job advert posted on Tesco’s site, with the supermarket telling potential candidates: “You’ll play a vital role for our customers and communities, representing Tesco on the highways and byways of the UK.”

Candidates who join the supermarket giant before 30 September will be eligible for the windfall.

Morrisons, meanwhile, was said to be developing schemes to train staff to become lorry drivers and other food supply companies are said to be following suit.

According to the Road Haulage Association (RHA) the UK is short of about 100,000 HGV drivers, with the Covid pandemic leading to 30,000 HGV driving tests not taking place last year.

It has become “increasingly competitive” to recruit drivers. Wages had also been pushed higher because of the “diminishing number” of HGV drivers.

Supermarkets have been pushing the cost of higher wages on to suppliers, with Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco among those asking suppliers to pay more towards goods collections.

Brexit was also a contributory factor in the lack of drivers and, at present, the need for some workers to self isolate after being pinged by the NHS Covid app. Although some drivers will no longer have to self isolate, hauliers and unions have been highly critical of the red tape involved in applying for workers to be made exempt.

There have also been claims that some disruption in the supply of drivers has been caused by tax changes that mean drivers previously treated as self-employed and who could offset tax against expenses, now had to be paid via PAYE.

Some companies are looking to fill the skills gap by broadening the talent pool.

The BBC has reported that wholesale food and catering supplier JJ Foodservice, for example, recently launched a recruitment campaign to encourage more women to become HGV drivers.  Only 1% of HGV drivers in the UK are women.

The wholesaler said it was offering “permanent contracts with no evenings or weekends, salaries of up to £35k in London, and no gender pay gap.  The UK driver shortage is not going to go away overnight, so we’re doing our part to make HGV driver roles more appealing to a wider diversity of people.

So far the government’s response to the shortage has been to grant a temporary extension of lorry drivers’ working hours, consult on ways of boosting driver test capacity and consider issuing provisional licences.

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