Derry lorry driver cum councillor Philip McKinney blames Brexit, low wages, training costs, infrastructure for shortage

A Derry lorry driver cum councillor has blamed Brexit, low wages, training barriers and poor infrastructure for the ongoing driver shortage.

Alliance Councillor Philip McKinney said the United Kingdom electorate's decision to vote to leave the European Union is one of the principal reasons for the lack of labour.

"A lot of our drivers from countries like Romania went back to the EU," he said.

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Colr. McKinney said the high cost of acquiring a large goods vehicle (LGV) licence was another factor.

A lorry arriving at Belfast Port.

"To get a full LGV C+E licence, can cost between £1600 and £2000. What young person has that sort of money available? But many training companies try to help with payment plans. There are very few Government incentives for young people," he said.

Some hauliers have introduced apprenticeship schemes in conjunction with training companies with government grants, said Colr. McKinney, who believes this could be a way forward.

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Poor wages are a further disincentive to those who may be considering becoming a lorry driver.

"Wages are obviously important. The average is around £10 per hour, unless you have specialist freight. The hauliers aren't totally to blame for this because in the past the client dictated the haulage rate and to a small haulier every penny counted. It was 'sink or swim'. If we want to keep goods moving, haulage and drivers' rates are going to rise - unfortunately for the consumer," he said.

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Cars queue for petrol in Cambridgeshire

Colr. McKinney claimed that the 'abysmal' infrastructure in Ireland, particularly the north west is off-putting to would-be drivers.

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"It’s an embarrassment that we still don't have a motorway/dual carriageway between Belfast and the North West. For example if I have to take a load from Birmingham to Gweedore Industrial Estate in Donegal, I join the M6 motorway to Scotland. I take my breaks in motorway services with proper facilities. I get the ferry from Cairnryan to Belfast and continue to Gweedore.

"I have to have a full daily rest of minimum 9 hours. So where are the facilities between Belfast and Gweedore? It’s scandalous that drivers must put up with the lack of facilities in Northern Ireland.

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"Where are the proper facilities where a driver can sit down, eat a meal in comfort, with proper shower and toilets, and park my truck in a secure area. And facilities are even worse for female drivers," declared the Waterside representative.

Alliance Councillor Philip McKinney.
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Colr. McKinney said: "We need government intervention - and quickly - if we are not to have empty shelves permanently. Actions, please. Not just words!"