Here’s a patriotic proposal: let’s form a Dad’s Army of lorry drivers, of which the Road Haulage Association reckons there’s currently a 100,000 shortage. Daily headlines tell us this is causing supply disruptions that have led to reduced factory output and half-empty supermarket shelves, slowing recovery and contributing to the blip in inflation.
We need Walmington-on-Sea’s trusty platoon at the wheel to compensate for the million-plus exodus of foreign-born workers that has afflicted the economy from hospitality (see this week’s last item) to fruit farms, slaughterhouses and construction sites — compounded in haulage by delays to thousands of HGV tests for new applicants last year. Right now, of course, all such problems are exacerbated by pingdemic chaos.
The only solution for fleet owners is to offer rising pay deals, to the extent that life in the cab with a Burger King meal and a copy of Top Gear magazine is beginning to look really quite attractive. At up to £18.41 an hour, plus a £2,000 ‘golden hello’ from Marks & Spencer, Aldi or other desperate hirers, it’s a lot more remunerative than, say, writing book reviews. And it must certainly be more fun than being brutalised as a graduate trainee in a City investment bank, where starting salaries have hit £75,000 but working days are so long and holidays so frowned-upon that the equivalent hourly rate barely beats trucking.
What’s more, paperwork-wise, it’s probably easier to escape abroad at the wheel of a 44-tonne artic than on a tourist flight or in a family car. ‘Join the army and see the world,’ posters used to say: where’s the truck-force recruiting office?
More dividends please
The Bank of England has belatedly removed what it called the ‘extraordinary guardrails on shareholder distributions’ it imposed on UK banks as a means of preserving their capacity to lend and absorb losses during the pandemic.