The UK trucking shortage persists despite appeals to foreign drivers

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Just weeks before the British government announced it would issue 5,000 temporary visas to truck drivers from Europe, Lucas Skopinski, a Polish trucker now working in the United States, was part of a campaign to reduce supply chain pressure ahead of Christmas. Kingdom offers this advice to friends at home:

Do not disturb.

“I talk to them on WhatsApp when I drive, and it’s not worth it for me to go here when this topic comes up,” he said in a recent interview. “It simply came to our notice then. The money will be almost identical, and they will be much closer to home.

So instead of providing immediate relief, the visa offer has become an informal measure of Britain’s appeal to the post-Brexit, late epidemic, which at one time considered the island one of the most attractive and lucrative places to settle and work.

Interviews with Polish drivers on both sides of the English Channel suggest that Britain has lost its luster. At the same time, an improved economy in Poland has made relocation much less attractive.

At a truck stop on the highway an hour east of Warsaw, in the town of Malisu, it is easy to find drivers who have heard of a British visa. The challenge was to find anyone interested in getting one.

“Financially, it’s right here,” said Casimierz Mogowski, who shipped wheat from Poland to Latvia. “I’m going to make மேலும் 1,000 more a month there” about $ 1,300 “But I have to pay for an apartment. So I’m not really moving to make a profit.

“Honestly, I want to live in France,” said Miroslav Kotinia, who got into his 12-wheeler after a quick lunch.

The Department of Transportation began hiring drivers overseas in October in hopes of reducing long queues at gas stations, empty shelves at grocery stores and uncut Christmas. Official figures have not been released, but in mid-October, Oliver Dowd, co-chairman of the Conservative Party, said on a radio program that a “relatively limited” number of applications had been received and that more than 20 had been received. Approved.

Some drivers who have worked in Britain say the country has become more racist since Brexit came into force in January 2020. The campaign to leave the European Union was most loudly advocated by the United Kingdom Freedom Party, its leader Nigel Farage, on legislation guaranteeing “British jobs for British workers”. In 2013, he warned of a “Romanian crime wave”.

Radoslav Palsievich, a trucking consultant in Warsaw, said, “Although they knew Brexit was possible, we lost a few drivers to the UK five years ago. After Brexit, many of them called and said they would no longer work there.”

Variations of “you have to go back to your country”, drivers said, were occasionally heard by Nativeists. The general feeling is that Britain’s atmosphere has become less hospitable. The duration of the visa offer also feels less than welcome. The obvious message is, a few drivers will say, “Come here and work until the day before Christmas, and then leave.”

“When I heard that Boris Johnson offered me this opportunity, I thought, ‘He’s crazy,'” he said. Balsevich said. “Imagine a 25- or 26-year-old truck driver in Poland. How much money can he go to Belgium and earn. And the work is easy. He is close to his family. He can drive on the right side of the road. In the UK, the steering wheel is also in the wrong place.

The direction of migration from Brexit and the onset of the epidemic is, in one direction towards the continent. The Center for Economic Statistics estimates that the number of foreign-born people leaving the UK as Covid-19 began to spread worldwide is 1.3 million. The authors describe this as an “unprecedented expulsion.”

Many of the workers who left were from countries such as Poland, Romania and Hungary, and EU members with low wages and living standards. The restaurant industry is one of the many ways in which this evacuation of people has paved the way. It is now not uncommon to find boards warning customers to prepare themselves for delays. Those dining at Shake Shake in London are greeted by a sign that reads, “Hey Shake Fame, our full menu offers cannot be guaranteed due to staff challenges currently in the UK, and wait times may be longer than usual.”

The trucking industry has also been hit hard. The British government estimates that 100,000 more drivers are needed. This raises the question of why the Department of Transportation issued only 5,000 temporary visas. In parliament, opposition politicians argue that the low turnout reflects ambiguity in the Conservative government.

Alistair Carmichael, an internal spokesman for the Liberal Democrats and a member of parliament, said: “This is a band-aid to repair a broken leg. “In many ways, this plan illustrates how this government is pulling itself in two directions at once. On the one hand, you have traditional conservative politicians who want to do the right thing through the economy and business and want to bring in drivers from Europe. On the other hand, they are very nationalist and exclusive, regardless of the economic consequences. You have the ideological right wing component of the party with an agenda.

The shortage of drivers has led some in the trucking industry to predict that the Christmas season will require some unhappy choices.

“If this problem is not fixed soon, those in the supply chain will be forced to make a decision: whether to send essentials such as food, or luxury items for the holidays?” Rob Holman, who oversees 140 trucks, is the director of two British trucking companies. “We can eat milk at supermarkets or Christmas presents in stores. There are not enough truck drivers to keep both.

The reluctance of Polish truckers to go to Britain is the story of how life in Poland has improved over the past decade. Fifteen years ago, when Witold Szulc moved to a town near Manchester, his salary and his standard of living as a truck driver increased significantly, he said. Since 2010, Poland’s economic growth has been sufficient to license FTSE Russell, the stock market index, and reclassify the country from an emerging market to a developed market.

As Poland’s fortunes soared, Mr. Sulk went sour in England. He said parking and facilities for truckers are very poor compared to most parts of Europe. The showers are old and poorly maintained, and the toilets are dirty and smelly, which is echoed by foreigners and other truckers. Most importantly, he and his wife were terrified of the idea of ​​raising their four children in the UK.

“We do not like the way British children live,” he said. Zulk said. “They are loud, they behave badly, they do not seem to value anyone. Many of them do not like immigrants like their parents. Imagine our children growing up like that and saying ‘no’.

In 2019, he returned to Poland and now he and a friend run an organic food shop in Lodz.

The driver was chatting with friends on WhatsApp. Skopinski plans to return to Poland early next year. His mother is elderly and he wants to live nearby. In addition, he has earned enough money to leave.

“At this point, all I want in the UK is finance,” he said.

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