• HGV driver shortage is amplified by the ‘pingdemic’

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  • Businesses across the UK are under strain with staff being told to self-isolate by the NHS Test and Trace app, and the logistics sector is no exception.

    With the UK short of around 100,000 HGV drivers, and warnings of shortages of food and other products on shelves in the coming months, the ‘pingdemic’ is adding further strain to the supply chain.

    The Road Haulage Association (RHA) has called on the Government to change the rules to allow commercial vehicle drivers pinged by the Test and Trace app to continue to work if they have received two Covid-19 jabs and are able to produce negative Covid tests.

    The Department for Transport (DfT) has acknowledged that commercial vehicle drivers spend the greatest proportion of their day alone in their cabs, and only 0.02 per cent test positive for Covid.

    Below is the updated guidance on GOV.UK which allows limited exceptions:

    “The Department for Transport (DfT) has issued new guidance on the proposed process for transport workers receiving exceptions to leave self-isolation to perform critical work.

    “As you may be aware, the Prime Minister recently announced that a limited number of fully vaccinated workers in critical roles, who have been identified as contacts of a positive case, may be permitted to continue to attend work as long as they are double vaccinated (with the final dose 14 days prior), do not have symptoms, and have tested negative via both a PCR, and daily lateral flow (LFD) tests.

    “This is a short-term measure before the exemption from self-isolation for fully vaccinated contacts is introduced on 16 August, and is only intended for exceptional circumstances, where there would be a major detrimental impact on essential services or critical national infrastructure, if staff could not attend work.

    “The process is intended to be used only for very limited exceptional cases and therefore all requests will be subject to the appropriate level of scrutiny.

    This process is not designed to mitigate acute shortages of lorry drivers.”

    The GOV.UK webpage links to three documents:

    • The Roads Transport Self-Isolation Exemption Process
    • A Q&A on critical worker exemptions
    • A template to complete in full if you feel you meet the requirements set out

    Full details: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/nhs-test-and-trace-workplace-guidance

    Scotland

    In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has been urged by RHA to replace self-isolation measures with lateral flow testing as a ‘low-risk option’ to keep trucks on the road.

    In an open letter to Scotland’s First Minister, the RHA made the point that drivers took on a key worker role during lockdowns, but are not being treated as key workers now:

    “During the early days of the pandemic when the country was locked down for the first time, road hauliers were the ones who ensured PPE and pharmaceuticals got to their destinations and that food was on the shelves, despite the prevalence of panic buying at the time. Governments from all parts of the UK were happy to praise the hauliers and categorise their employees as “key workers”.

    “Our ask is that our employees are given the same status as other key workers in one respect — that for fully vaccinated logistics employees (just like “Test and Release” proposals for NHS staff), isolation be replaced by daily lateral flow tests, and that as long as the test remains negative, that they be allowed to work.”