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COVID-19: DRIVING AND FLEET NEWS ROUNDUP

Author: Richard Snarey

Published date: 2020/04

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​Since the government placed restrictions on movement, the demand for delivery services has reached new heights. It means that organisations are now competing to recruit and retain driving staff in a way they’ve never had to before. 

Here, we’ve pulled together some of the top driving and fleet news that’s emerged in recent weeks relating to COVID-19 and the effect this is having on the wider industry.  

UK Lorry Drivers ‘Denied Access To Bathrooms’

It was reported in March that the lorry drivers who are maintaining vital food and other supplies are being denied access to toilet and handwashing facilities at hubs servicing major UK companies. 

Public Health England (PHE) published a letter that stressed the need to allow access to facilities, which was circulated by the Road Haulage Association (RHA) for drivers to produce if they were denied the right to use a washroom. 

RHA’s managing director, Rod McKenzie, said: “This behaviour from distribution centres is simply not acceptable. Preventing drivers from using toilets is illegal. Preventing them from accessing hygiene facilities during an international pandemic is absurd.” 

 Clean Air Zones Postponed Until 2021

The government is postponing the introduction of all Clean Air Zones (CAZs) until at least January 2021 so that businesses can focus on work and response efforts during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Birmingham and Leeds City Councils were due to implement CAZs this summer following a postponement of a January launch. Both councils expressed concerns over the impacts of the schemes on both drivers and businesses during this time. 

The move to delay the rollout to 2021 was detailed in a letter from Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minister, Rebecca Pow to the Freight Transport Association (FTA). Head of urban policy, Natalie Chapman, said: “Logistics businesses simply do not have the resources to dedicate to preparing for the imminent introduction of CAZs. In addition, supplies of technology, equipment and trucks are being disrupted by the pandemic, making it harder for businesses to upgrade their fleets to meet the emission standards required of the schemes.” 

Petrol And Diesel Prices Fall

According to data released from RAC Fuel Watch, UK fuel prices fell by their largest margin in 12 years last month due to a collapse of the world oil price. It’s thought that prices are set to reduce further throughout April, but only if retailers decide to pass on the savings to customers. 

A combination of falling demand in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak and a massive glut of oil meant that the price of a barrel of oil plummeted by 66 per cent to under $18 by the end of March. This led to prices dropping from 122.72p to 113.54p per litre for unleaded, with diesel down to 117.8p per litre from 125.7p - the largest single-month price reduction since October 2008. 

Apprenticeship Levy ‘Should Be’ Halted

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has called for a change in the Apprenticeship Levy to pause during the COVID-19 crisis. The Apprenticeship Levy is a tax on employers which is used to fund apprenticeship training. It’s payable by all employers with an annual pay bill of more than £3 million at a rate of 0.5 per cent of their total pay bill.

The FTA argues that due to logistics businesses unable to recruit new apprentices at this time and with no training programmes able to get started, the government should review the use of the Levy. 

Head of UK policy at FTA, Christopher Snelling, said: “Logistics businesses are already under intense financial pressure - our recent survey identified 76 per cent of respondents as having experienced a downturn in business since the COVID-19 outbreak - and to expect them to continue to pay into a finding programme they can no longer access is unfair to the industry charged with keeping the UK trading. FTA is urging the government to rethink its approach as a matter of urgency.” 

Where Have All The Drivers Gone? 

Over the last month, large organisations with deep pockets and slick marketing campaigns have been aggressively recruiting drivers to help them manage the increased demand for delivery services. Tesco, for example, reported that it typically operates 660,000 home delivery slots but is now running around 805,000. Since the lockdown, the supermarket giant has added more than 200 new vans and hired another 2,500 drivers.

As a direct result, a lot of businesses have found themselves losing valuable driving personnel at a time when they need them the most. PRS founder and director, Richard Snarey, said: “The UK’s top supermarkets, pharmacies and other providers of essential items are channelling their significant marketing strength into recruiting staff to keep up with the increased demand. We’ve seen an increase in businesses approaching our specialist driving recruitment team to bolster their teams urgently, whether that’s due to drivers having to take time off with illness or to look after vulnerable relatives or they’re jumping ship to the competition.” 

Are you looking for drivers? Perhaps PRS can help. For our specialist driving recruitment consultants, it’s business as usual so get in touch today to see what we can do for you.