Parliamentary Committees and Public Enquiries
Time to turbo-charge the transport supply chain, urges Transport Committee
New Government must put growth before red-tape and industry inertia, say MPs.
The new Government’s supply-side approach to boost growth will need to include a plan to keep the supply-chain resilient. Without fresh intervention, the UK won’t have enough HGV drivers on the road to keep freight moving, warns the Transport Committee.
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The Committee has just published the previous Government’s response to its report, Road freight supply chain, in which MPs urged ministers to ‘level up’ the supply chain.
With Christmas just weeks away, MPs warn that the Government’s approach is unlikely to prevent the periodic disruption seen in previous years. The Committee’s inquiry was prompted by the failure of the logistics sector to supply essential goods to the UK’s supermarkets, petrol station forecourts and other marketplaces.
The Committee’s report recommended actions to overhaul the logistics sector and ensure the supply chain and its workforce are more robust and resilient. It called on industry – particularly large retailers, online service giants and fuel companies – to step up and take a role in delivering improved standards and resilience to the workforce which delivers their goods. The imposition of a financial penalty by Government, such as a Supply Chain Levy could improve compliance, said MPs. The Committee’s recommendations were largely rejected. The new Government is urged to think again.
The Chair of the Transport Committee, Huw Merriman MP, said:
“The new Government’s mantra on supply-side initiatives is in keeping with our proposals to get the supply-chain moving. We urge the Government to re-write this disappointing response to our Committee’s recommendations. Without a new approach, the Government risks sleepwalking into another supply chain crisis. We have watched a sector struggling with recruitment and retention. Drivers are retiring and not enough is being done to recruit a younger and more diverse workforce.
“Only a radical overhaul, with Government taking the shackles off planning restraints and incentivising industry to invest, will see more people consider HGV driving as a good career. Our inquiry heard how salaries are not the only factor – planning reform, funded training, welfare, vehicle security, adequate facilities – are all key to valuing drivers in an employment market where drivers can earn good wages elsewhere.
“The Government needs to see planning reform as the key to unlocking more resilience. Using small pockets of taxpayer funding is not the answer. The investment of £52 million in better driver facilities gives mixed messages about where responsibility lies and will not go far: we heard that one service station with 100 HGV spaces cost £40 million to deliver.
“It’s time to shift the bill to those who make the largest profits. A failure to invest in their own supply chain should lead to a financial levy on companies at the start and end of this chain. These companies, from oil producers to retail and online giants, make billions in profits but fail to invest in improvements for the drivers who deliver their profits. The Government need to reduce red-tape to incentivise new facilities to be built faster. If the industry will not then build, and invest in the resilience which drivers need, then the Government should do it for them and send them the bill.
“£20 million on modal shift is not going to move the dial. If the Government and industry are to deliver their Net Zero targets, and keep the supply chain running, there needs to be more investment in a freight spine to the nation; cog and spoke means rail and water freight.
“We hope that the announcement of the Government’s Growth Plan, which includes planning reform to accelerate infrastructure delivery, will drive progress on improved HGV facilities and service stations. We will be raising this with the new Secretary of State; in a cost of living crisis, another season of empty shelves and petrol stations cannot be excused.”
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