Skills Report Shows UK Trade’s Reliance On EU Workers

Skills Report Shows UK Trade’s Reliance On EU Workers

If British business is to make a success of Brexit, its supply chain needs to have access to European workers in the short to medium term, according to Freight Transport Association (FTA) the industry body which speaks for the logistics sector.

As the latest independent industry report into skills shortages in the logistics industry is published today (23 November 2018), Sally Gilson of FTA has called on government to reassess its immigration system to ensure it is based on needs not qualifications.

“The Skills Shortage report again shows that logistics continues to struggle to recruit new HGV drivers – the industry currently needs 52,000 drivers for logistics businesses to be fully operational and continue to keep up with consumer and business demands.”


“Having the freedom to recruit from across the EU has helped to keep our lorries and vans on the road but with uncertainty surrounding the parameters of a future immigration system, the logistics sector is concerned that there just won’t be enough drivers available to transport the goods and raw materials the UK is reliant upon”

Sally Gilson, Freight Transport Association


“The Migration Advisory Committee report recommended restricting lower-skilled immigration, however, logistics businesses are reliant on those workers to keep goods and services moving. Unless domestic workers can be incentivised to switch careers or take up a meaningful apprenticeship in logistics – something which the industry has been pressing government on for a while – businesses will remain dependent on these migrant workers.”

“Without them, goods and services will simply fail to move around the country and across its borders. FTA is urging government to build its future immigration policy on what the UK requires to keep trading, not on a qualification or salary levels.”


The Impact of EU Workers

As with other service industries, logistics is currently facing significant skills shortages, and the loss of workers from the EU will put further pressure on careers including HGV and van drivers, fork lift operators and warehouse personnel, with EU workers representing more than 12% of the UK’s logistics workforce.

“Logistics is a flexible, adaptable sector, always willing and able to rise to any challenge placed in front of it,” Ms Gilson continues.


“With Brexit looming large, businesses are having to prepare for all scenarios – but without knowing what a No Deal outcome could mean for both EU and UK citizens, it is impossible to plan staffing levels effectively”

Sally Gilson, Freight Transport Association


“No one wants vehicles to grind to a halt, but it is a real prospect if the government does not prioritise the confirmation of the workforce which is tasked with keeping Britain trading.”

“The logistics sector is working hard to attract new homegrown talent but we are competing against many other sectors also suffering skills shortages, which is why we have record levels of vacancies across the sector.”

“EU workers have been welcomed into our businesses and are valuable to their employers. Some choose to live in the UK permanently, others take seasonal positions. Either way, logistics businesses want to retain the right to employ workers from outside the UK – there is no alternative.”

“Just like there is no magic money tree, there is no magic labour tree,” Sally concludes.  “The future employment criteria for these vital EU workers must be prioritised to protect the integrity of the country’s supply chain.”

The full report is available here.


Efficient logistics is vital to keep Britain trading, directly having an impact on more than seven million people employed in the making, selling and moving of goods.  With Brexit, new technology and other disruptive forces driving change in the way goods move across borders and through the supply chain, logistics has never been more important to UK plc.

A champion and challenger, FTA speaks to Government with one voice on behalf of the whole sector, with members from the road, rail, sea and air industries, as well as the buyers of freight services such as retailers and manufacturers.

For more information on FTA please click here.