BY JIM WEBSTER
Why would anybody be a lorry driver? The pay dropped because companies employed cheap labour from abroad. To an extent that is still happening with delivery drivers. We’ve had a charming Bulgarian man come into our yard looking for somebody else (we’re just the postcode). His only sentence in English was ‘I am from Bulgaria and don’t speak English’. To show us where he wanted to be, he showed us the name on the list. We then drew a map to show him where he should be (rural postcodes are quite big in the UK, a lot of the places in the postcode aren’t in sight of each other.)
But back to Long Distance Lorry drivers. Where are the transport cafes where they used to have the chance of a decent meal cheap? Places where there was room to park the lorry which were free overnight because they knew you’d have a breakfast before you left?
I saw this, posted by an ex-driver who goes by the name of Jim Titheridge:
“So, you are running out of food on the shelves, fuel in the garages, you can’t buy things you need, because the shops can’t get their supplies.
Why is that?
A shortage of goods? No
A shortage of money? No
A shortage of drivers to deliver the goods? Well, sort of.
There isn’t actually a shortage of drivers, what we have, is a shortage of people who can drive, that are willing to drive any more. You might wonder why that is. I can’t answer for all drivers, but I can give you the reason I no longer drive. Driving was something I always yearned to do as a young boy, and as soon as I could, I managed to get my driving licence, I even joined the army to get my HGV licence faster, I held my licence at the age of 17. It was all I ever wanted to do, drive trucks, I had that vision of being a knight of the roads, bringing the goods to everyone, providing a service everyone needed. What I didn’t take into account was the absolute abuse my profession would get over the years.
I have seen a massive decline in the respect this trade has, first, it was the erosion of truck parking and transport café’s, then it was the massive increase in restricting where I could stop, timed weight limits in just about every city and town, but not all the time, you can get there to do your delivery, but you can’t stay there, nobody wants an empty truck, nobody wants you there once they have what they did want.
Compare France to the UK. I can park in nearly every town or village, they have marked truck parking bays, and somewhere nearby, will be a small routier, where I can get a meal and a shower, the locals respect me, and have no problems with me or my truck being there for the night.
Go out onto the motorway services, and I can park for no cost, go into the service area, and get a shower for a minimal cost, and have freshly cooked food, I even get to jump the queues, because others know that my time is limited, and respect I am there because it is my job. Add to that, I even get a 20% discount of all I purchase. Compare that to the UK £25-£40 just to park overnight, dirty showers, and expensive, dried (under heat lamps) food that is overpriced, and I have no choice but to park there, because you don’t want me in your towns and cities.
Ask yourself how you would feel, if doing your job actually cost you money at the end of the day, just so you could rest.
But that isn’t the half of it. Not only have we been rejected from our towns and cities, but we have also suffered massive pay cuts, because of the influx of foreign drivers willing to work for a wage that is high where they come from, companies eagerly recruited from the eastern bloc, who can blame them, why pay good money when you can get cheap labour, and a never ending supply of it as well. Never mind that their own countries would suffer from a shortage themselves, that was never our problem, they could always get people from further afield if they needed drivers.
We were once seen as knights of the road, now we are seen as the lepers of society. Why would anyone want to go back to that?
If you are worried about not getting supplies on your supermarket shelves, ask your local council just how well they cater for trucks in your district.
I know Canterbury has the grand total of zero truck parking facilities, but does have a lot of restrictions, making it difficult for trucks to stop anywhere.
Do you want me to go back to driving trucks? Give me a good reason to do so. Give anyone a good reason to take it up as a profession.
Perhaps once you work out why you can’t, you will understand why your shelves are not as full as they could be.
I tried it for over 30 years, but will never go back, you just couldn’t pay me enough.
Thank you to all those people who have shared this post. I never expected such a massive response, but am glad that this message is getting out there. I really hope that some people who are in a position to change just how bad it is for some drivers, can influence the powers that be to make changes for the better. Perhaps some city and town councillors have seen this, and are willing to bring up these issues at their council meetings. It surely cannot be too much to ask of a town/city to provide facilities for those who are doing so much to make sure their economies run and their shops and businesses are stocked with supplies. I never wanted any luxuries, just somewhere safe to park, and some basic ablutions that are maintained to a reasonable standard. I spent my nights away from my home and family for you, how much is it to ask that you at least give me access to some basic services.
There are tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of licence holders just like me, who will no longer tolerate the conditions. So the ball is firmly in the court of the councils to solve this problem.”
But people have always looked down on nasty dirty working class lorries and their drivers, clogging up the road, holding up traffic.
People seem to think that we’ll just hire more cheap drivers from abroad. Well there’s a problem with that. Apparently the Continent has a shortage of 400,000 qualified lorry drivers. According to the International Road Transport Union a quarter of all driving jobs cannot be filled. Poland has apparently got a bigger shortage of drivers than we have! Spain has cut the minimum age for getting your HGV licence down to 18 to try and get more people in. In Germany you can pass your driving test using Arabic.
But, tough though it may seem, people are going to have to pay more for delivery. Too often ‘free delivery’ means that we’ll underpay the driver to keep costs down.
Apparently the government is going to give 5000 temporary visas so companies can hire in foreign drivers. I would suggest that these visas cost £5,000 and the money is used to put somebody through their HGV test.
We’ll know when the problem is solved. When there are lorry parks handy for major towns, with safe parking, decent cafes and clean showers and toilets. After all, how many people want a job where they have to sleep in a wagon cab every night and use whatever toilet they can find?
When motorists slow down and flash their lights to let a lorry pull onto the road in front of them?
And when hell freezes over we’ll use sledges to transport stuff across the ice.
Jim Webster farms at the bottom end of South Cumbria. Jim was encouraged to collect together into a book some blog posts he’d written because of their insight into Cumbrian farming and rural life (rain, sheep, quad-bikes and dogs) It’s available here.